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Rob Brown: What A Load Of Kabul! – Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

You absolutely have to admire what Rob Brown did during his 18-month stay in the Afghan capital. Employed on security detail protecting the supply chains from Kabul to Kandahar, he accidentally found himself in charge of catering. One night, he dished out some leftovers to the neighbourhood kids in an operation that would grow and group until he was supplying food to 150 people in a tented settlement opposite his base.

It’s the sort of fine ad hoc humanitarian work he says squaddies all over Afghanistan are doing, a more effective ‘hearts and minds’ operation than most of the official initiatives are likely to achieve. But that didn’t stop Brown running into some trouble with his jobsworth superiors, who feared he was risking security at the base where he was stationed.

Any story can be mined for comedy, but that’s the one thing Brown has forgotten to do – something of a drawback. Rather than jokes or entertaining stories, we get seemingly endless footage of cute Afghan kids eating their rice and beans, beaming smiles on their faces, as inspirational middle-of-the-road rock music stirs in the background.

This show is part holiday-video, part Comic Relief. You almost expect Lenny Henry to pop up any moment and ask for more money to support this fine work. That appeal doesn’t come, but nor do the punchlines. He’ll advance the story I just took two paragraphs to tell after each clip, then we are back for more.

Some preamble allows the burly Australian to show off some of his comedy credentials: and while he has an engaging way of pulling the rug from under you in his brief tales of the maximum security prison where he used to work, many of the gags are straightforward. ‘Sunni and Shia? Didn’t they have a hit with I Got You Babe.’

Brown is a likeable storyteller, and the setting of his adventures is certainly unusual – but its not much of a tale, much as that sounds harsh for someone whose clearly done so much good in a country that so desperately needs it. He only came back from Afghanistan just over a month before the start of the Fringe, so it’s possible he just hasn’t had enough time to hone it into a decent show.

But for the moment, save your ticket money – and maybe donate it to an Afghan charity instead.

Review date: 31 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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