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Russell Kane: Manscaping
Published on Thursday, 25 August 2011

5 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
12-21, 23-26 Aug, 8:50pm-9:50pm
Reviewed by Kirsty Leckie-Palmer

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

In light of the buzz around Russell Kane’s show last year, I’m almost glad I didn’t see it. That’s an odd admission to start with – but it’s far preferable to have an unclouded perspective on the merits of a show, without the looming uneasiness of phrases like ‘follow up show’ and ‘make or break’ to bend things out of reason.

Manscaping loosely maps Russell Kane’s experiences since moving further into the spotlight, and breaking up with his girlfriend. Change, or a reluctance to accept it, might be a broader theme; Kane pinballs around some material at first, feeling his way into the audience before really diving into longer anecdotes. An utter people-pleaser on divisive topics such as gender or class, he’ll exchange a sterile caricature of Morningside copulation for an homage to the fat rolls on his working class dad’s neck – and this fair exchange goes some way to keeping everyone laughing. As an audience member, it makes for a more nuanced experience to be able to take a dig at your demographic, knowing he’ll turn his attention to another in characteristically mercurial style.

Kane flings his body indiscriminately at the task in hand, whether recreating the primeval carriage of a lurking alpha male or the self-saturated shimmy of a lass out on the town for the night. Squirming with extravagance into the personas his stories require, he contorts himself into ever more pitiable shapes when telling his own story, whether prostrate with doom on the kitchen floor or retching like a cat choking on a bottlecap. His deft humility keeps us firmly on his side, and aligning himself with the audience, he often seems baffled at the heady fame-flung anecdotes tumbling from his lips – just as readily retreating into a reference to his mum’s soup.

In spite of sweating with flu and taking turns to blow his nose, in the throes of a Berocca overdose and recklessly proposing ‘just knock a star off, knock a star off’, his show ran over by twenty minutes.  While that's not as professional as it could be, it revealed a genuine desire to impart the remainder of his act to the audience in spite of the time, and he asked permission to continue with appealing humility.

Everything but complacent, Russell Kane is a surprisingly modest performer, although his skunk-like quiff and pirouetting entrance suggested otherwise. What nudges Manscaping over the threshold from good to great isn’t its energy though: it’s the genuine effort Kane put in to respond to the expectations of his immediate audience, and what surely will brand him with the stars of Fringe success for another year.

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