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The Great Brain Robbery
Published on Wednesday, 24 August 2011

3 stars

Just The Tonic at the Caves (venue website)
21-28 Aug, 1:45pm-2:45pm
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

The Great Brain Robbery, aside from a neatly punning title, also have a neat line in audience engagement.  You may well have encountered them through your social media outlet of choice, but they also do it the old fashioned way – leaving stamped addressed postcards on the chairs and inviting the crowd to get in touch afterwards.

They seem like a fun crowd to be pen-pals with.  The four-guys, one-girl lineup – making their Edinburgh debut – run through a series of well-honed sketches which demonstrate a wit and intelligence that should make them Fringe favourites.

They're also not afraid of mixing in the odd crude punchline.  Some of these misfire – a throwaway remark about incest, for example – but others work gloriously.  The vision of a semi-naked pudgy bald man, with a belt round his neck and a vial of poppers up his nose, is one that will haunt my dreams.

As that might suggest, their sketches tend to be prop-heavy, in contrast with the current fashion for pared-back staging.  On arrival, the stage is strewn with wigs, seats, telephones and other apparatus; as these are used and dispensed with, they are chucked into a waiting suitcase in what may be a clever deconstructionist device.

But it does mean that while it's all in the process of being deconstructed, there is a lot of lights-down shuffling of chairs and donning of hairpieces, which noticeably slows the pace and stifles the atmosphere.  I hope that as they grow into their short run, they will be able to keep the energy flowing between scenes a bit better.

Don't get me wrong – the energy is there, and this is an enjoyable afternoon of sketches and songs.  Will The Great Brain Robbery be a Fringe sketch group to watch out for in years to come?  Answers on a postcard, please.

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