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The Bitch Doctors
Published on Monday, 15 August 2011

3 stars

The Voodoo Rooms (venue website)
3-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-28 Aug, 5:30pm-6:30pm
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

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

The format of The Bitch Doctors is rather like some of those late-night 'best of...' or '... and friends' shows. A bunch of performers from other shows form a panel and have an informal, mostly unscripted chat, as well as showcasing a few bits of their act. Despite the changing line-up, I was lucky enough to catch two FringeGuru favourites on the evening I went: street performer Mat Ricardo, and Loretta Maine, the alter ego of Pippa Evans of Showstopper! The Musical fame.

I must admit I didn't know much about what to expect on entering the room and being handed a slip of paper. Turns out, the main thrust involves the performers riffing off the things the audience write on those slips. You're asked to note down an ailment affecting your heart, mind or body, and the panel then dispense their 'expert' advice, usually by way of something connected to their act.

The first obstacle facing this show is that, when the audience is given the slips of paper to fill in, it's not clear how serious or truthful we should be. Flippant ailments such as 'lack of any sense of direction in Edinburgh' led to obvious remarks about the city being a maze, weird ailments like 'being obsessed with octopuses' head straight to a dead end on further questioning, and I'm pretty sure the 'too much alcohol, lack of sleep' ailment comes up almost much every night.

For my part, I gave a reality-based ailment of the heart - though I hope it was clear to the performers Bruce Lee is not my real name (at least not the Bruce part). Loretta Maine, the night's heart doctor, stepped in with a song about how the problem is not the other person but me. I know if I had gone with a group of my friends, this gentle ribbing would have caused a storm of laughter in my vicinity, and I think that's where this show would be at its funniest: laughing at the embarrassing revelations when an audience member you know is picked on. In essence, it's the perfect show to set up an unsuspecting friend or partner.

But otherwise, the set-up is too variable: I would have loved to have heard more songs or wisecracks from Evans (sorry, Maine), but I was the only audience member to claim a heart condition. And as with any show with lots of audience interaction, it's dependent on people who are up for it and willing to become the butt of the joke. At half past five in the evening, even the Edinburgh Fringe crowd is not yet that tipsy, and on on the day I attended was still quite inhibited. I think the performers realised in that case, it's best not to push it too far and make anyone feel too awkward; but the sad result was that the comedy banter soon became a little flat and repetitive.

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