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Sink or Spin
Published on Wednesday, 17 August 2011

5 stars (Critic's Choice)

Bannatyne's Health Club
3-4, 8-16, 18-28 Aug, 2:15pm-3:15pm
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

 Recommended for age 18+ only. Venue may not permit under-18's - check with venue before booking.

Every year, you'll see something in the Fringe programme that is being staged at an unlikely venue.  Perhaps saying something about the British state of mind, performances in a toilet seem to be de rigueur, if not de trop.  What you need to know about Sink or Spin is that, yes, it's in an outlandish setting; but it's also a gloriously daft comic performance with a bit of heart and a lot of laughs.

The audience is cast as a fitness class at Bannatynes, which will be led by the new instructor, Clement, a bizarrely accented Frenchman.  He takes us through a series of "deadly modules" on the exercise bikes in the hopes that "Duncan" will give him a permanent job at "Bannateens". Naturally not all is as it seems, and Clement's enthusiasm for spinning is tied up in his complicated relationship with his wife and their bikes.

The first thing to say is that, as the show is set in a spin class, you're going to have to sit on a spin bike for the whole hour.  That may sound obvious but for those who, like me, are a long time out of the saddle, you may find it initially a bit uncomfortable.  The name badges everyone wears are not just for show, either: signing in at reception you must complete a medical information form lest anyone should collapse midway through proceedings!  You don't actually have to pedal for victory, but it really will enhance your experience if you're able to take part in the wonderfully silly interactive elements.  Give it a go; the exercise should result in a mild glow rather than a full-on drenching (depending on your fitness), so you can get away with street wear.

The next thing to say is that the whole experience is unbelievably good fun.  Whether you're pretending to be a bull and charging Clement's matador, or cycling like a gangsta to the hip-hop beats from his iPod, it's just a great laugh to be in it together with the rest of the crowd.  This is immersive interactive comedy done well, and greatly benefits from the site-specific scenario: Clement could sit on a stage with the audience in seats before him, but it wouldn't be half the show it is if he did.

The story itself is good (but not brilliant), with some genuinely funny and affecting moments and a nice slow reveal of how Clements' life has unravelled.  What elevates this to a must-see, though, is the joyous experience of the whole package.  The Queen Street location may feel remote, with only The Stand really flying the flag for comedy north of the Royal Mile this Fringe.  But even with the great array of comedians they have on the bill, I doubt there is anything that is quite as much fun as Sink or Spin in the New Town, or anywhere else in Edinburgh this year.

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