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Tom Bell Begins
Published on Wednesday, 17 August 2011

4 stars

Just the Tonic at The Tron (venue website)
4-15, 17-20, 22-28 Aug, 3:40pm-4:40pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

The idea behind Tom Bell's first solo show is a nice concept: a gritty Hollywood reboot of his life. It makes sense (insofar as anything in a high-concept Fringe comedy show makes sense); he’s turned 30, he’s performing solo rather than as part of double act Tommy and the Weeks, and it’s a nice twist on the usual autobiographical fringe solo show.

Despite his protestations of grittiness, Bell’s show is lots of fun. He challenges the audience to a game of Grandmother’s Footsteps, and he gets more laughs and material that I would have thought possible from magazine coverlines. He also does a brilliantly funny mime of the most generic commercial ever, which shows off Bell’s performance skills and likeable charm.

Not everything hits the spot. The songs are thin and flimsy, hardly worth the effort of schlepping the guitar to Edinburgh, and the running joke about Jennifer Aniston turning up to play Bell’s love interest never really works (with the pay-off just silly, and a weak way to end the show). In fact the whole thing works better when the Hollywood-blockbuster aspect is left vague, rather than when he attempts to actually mimic the movies on stage – after all, Joe Bone’s Bane series has pretty much done that definitively.

But Bell is an excellent performer. He's skilful enough that he can introduce a character like ‘Australia’s top misogynist comedian’ Mike Masters, designed to leave the audience baffled about how to react, and then win the crowd back with his own charm and charisma.

One last thing though: Bell remarks in the show on his gaunt looks, and it does seem that if he was really in a Hollywood action movie he wouldn’t be the hero; he’d make a much better villain.  Perhaps next year.

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