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Graters: Julian Ignores his Friend and Talks to a Pretty Girl
Published on Wednesday, 15 August 2012
3

3 stars

Underbelly, Cowgate (venue website)
Comedy
2-12, 14-26 Aug, 11:50am-12:50pm
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

It's a truism that the Fringe is full of student performers, but student needn't be synonymous with novice.  There's a lot of talent out there, and that's most highly visible in sketch comedy – of course, there's the famous bunch from Cambridge, but other universities including Oxford, Durham and Bristol are in Edinburgh year in, year out, producing the goods.  University College London, in their Fringe debut, do enough with Julian Ignores His Friend And Talks To A Pretty Girl to keep the old guard on their toes.

The title does a pretty good job of explaining the context of the show.  While Julian is ignoring his friend and talking to the pretty girl (two, in fact), he attempts to win their affections by recounting some of the comedy material he has produced (he's “in the entertainment business”).  The rest of the cast appear stage left, and act out the sketches Julian describes.

The format works, and it doesn't.  I applaud their decision to try to produce a narrative framework which binds the disparate and unrelated sketch routines into a more cohesive and attractive whole.  But they don't quite get there.  The sketches themselves are fine – better than that, even, they are well-written and performed, inventive, varied and often daring, with the Antarctic explorers and closing song being highlights.

It's the glue they've used to bind these that doesn't quite stick for me.  It's not really a sketch itself, more like a short comic play, and it falls a little flat.  It's never really funny, in a conventional sense, and the pacing of these sequences, and the nervous tension engendered by an increasingly pathetic Julian, sit uncomfortably with the skits.  I also felt the direction could have been a bit sharper – the performers often seemed to not know which way to look, for instance – but I expect that will improve as they grow into their first Fringe run, and they tighten up the staging and script going forward.

The finale does a nice job of bringing both halves of the show together in a pleasing and meaningful way, reflecting the loneliness and mental deterioration of Julian.  He may end up defeated and dejected, but Julian, the performance, fares better.  Witty and thoughtful, although maybe not as clever as they think it is, this is nonetheless a commendable first showing from these Fringe newcomers which could make them hard to ignore in future.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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