Markus Birdman

Markus Birdman

Markus Birdman's Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney

A strange show on paper, but a good one in practice. Seasoned club comedian Markus Birdman has decided to make use of the animation skills learned at art school a few decades ago, and incorporate them into his latest show. 

He’s done this by producing a video animation of Rumpelstiltskin, or at least a twisted version of it featuring Donald Trump, his 12-year-old daughter, and the eponymous troll thing (or whatever Rumpelstiltskin is). Birdman flits between doing stand-up, and playing this video, over which he makes some witty interjections. 

Stay with me …

Rumpelstiltskin was his chosen fable because it’s about greed and ambition, and doing a Faustian pact to get what you want. The name of the show, Between the Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, is a metaphor, he says, for being stuck between chasing your dreams and being held back by the brutal realities of life. Perhaps as a reward to the audience for getting on board with a high-concept show, Birdman has kindly included some knob gags. 

Phew. So is it worth seeing? Yes. Unsurprisingly, it gets off to a slow start as he manoeuvres our expectations into position. But Birdman is a solid comic who knows how to deliver a joke, and the room tangibly relaxes as soon as he gets into his stride. 

There are a handful of jokes that are a cut above, including one that features a blink-and-you-miss-it impression of Les Dawson. His best material is about his family – his moody daughter who apparently takes the piss out of him as much as he does to her, and his dad, who followed his belief and became a vicar. 

Birdman became a comedian by following his beliefs too, he says. In fact the entire show could be described as an elaborate way of justifying his career choices. 

His dream was originally to become an artist, so perhaps in a small way he’s making that dream come true by bringing his artwork into his comedy. He speaks a lot about what it’s like to be a comedian – what people say to him, how his own ambitions to make it on TV have waned over the years. This seems an unlikely claim, but I think there’s some truth it – mainly because this is the show of a man who is doing what he wants, not someone who’s trying to climb the greasy pole. 

So what of the animated videos? I didn’t find them especially funny, some of them were left hanging and they interrupted the flow of the show. But having said that, they were also fun and engaging to watch, which just about justifies their inclusion. 

They might have worked better if they spoke more to Birdman’s script; instead it felt like there were two shows going on simultaneously. My suspicion is the videos and the material were developed independently – something that is too late to address now. Something that isn’t too late to smooth out is the stop-start pace of the show, which could certainly be handled more slickly. 

Ultimately it’s an example of an established comic taking a bit of a risk, and on the whole, it worked.

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Published: 9 Aug 2017

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