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The Colour Ham
Published on Friday, 10 August 2012
3

3 stars

Just the Tonic at The Caves (venue website)
Comedy
1, 16-18, 23-24 Aug, 7:45pm-8:45pm; 2-11 Aug, 7:45pm-8:45pm, 9:15pm-10:15pm; 12 Aug, 9:15pm-10:15pm
Reviewed by Liam McKenna

 Recommended for age 16+ only.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

We are led through a dark, cobbled passageway which opens up into a chamber deep inside South Bridge, that could well have been an ancient chapel where unspoken monstrosities took place. There is a little packet of Haribo laid out on each chair. As I switch my strawbs for cola bottles before anyone notices, I wonder: are we being buttered up for something horrific?

With a name like The Colour Ham, it’s hard to guess what you’re coming to see. It conjures thoughts of a surreal comedy sketch show that maybe thinks it’s more surreal than it actually is. But what this show is…well, it’s a bit of everything really. It’s like they couldn’t decide on a defining feature so they dipped their goblet into the pool of random thought, and came up with magic, comedy, mind-reading, and Morris dancing.

There are three characters: the magician, the mind-reader/hypnotist, and the simpleton. We start off with the magician, who performs some card tricks, then gets his face burnt as he sets fire to a box – with seemingly ‘nothing inside’. It takes a while to get going. There’s stilted banter throughout, verging on commentary on how the show is panning out, which draws a trickle of laughs but feels like work-in-progress.

The hypnotism brings out some genuine questions – such as “assuming that wasn’t a stooge, how on Earth did they get him to do that without any obvious prompts?” There’s some misleadingly bad mind-reading, which is impressive – but is in danger of attracting unfair parallels with Derren Brown.

The show then segues into a bizarre spoof of Blind Date, where a couple is selected from the crowd, a board placed between them on stage, and you’re led to believe something incredible or hilarious is about to happen. But in actual fact you get a crude, gurning simpleton doing a weird impersonation of ‘our Cilla’ in a nostalgic sketch that seems forced and weak, and not just because it’s stuck in the mid-90s.

But despite the inconsistency, and the Jack-of-all-trades tag it’s in danger of acquiring, I would still recommend The Colour Ham. If only for the climax; the piece de resistance. And I really mean that: you’re sat through 50-odd minutes of tame magic and magic-show standard comedy, and then there’s this final crescendo. At first, it’s all right – there’s a dark story about body snatchers, there’s blood and a tin of ham. It’s reasonably satisfying. But that’s not it. What happened next actually blew my mind. And you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the entrance fee for that one big moment of WTF.

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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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