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Yianni in Think Big (The Big One)

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Jay Richardson

Build it and they will come. That was the thinking behind Yianni Agisilaou's decision to book himself into the 1,200 Edinburgh International Conference Centre, banking on enough punters enjoying his Free Fringe show over its run to stump up £10 to see the (relative) unknown in a grander setting. What's more, if he sold more tickets than Ed Byrne in the same venue, the Irishman would open for him.

Balloons, party horns and bubble-blowing kits were summarily dispensed at the door. And Byrne did indeed take the support slot, performing ten minutes of drolly funny material on Edinburgh's need to create foreign embassies when Scotland gets independence and parents' diminishing love for a second child.

But Yianni had lost his bet, filling perhaps a third of the room at a generous assessment. He couldn't hide his disappointment, alluding to the empty seats on a number of occasions. Still, it didn't hurt the show so much as give it an unusual atmosphere, an underlying mix of pathos, intimacy and defiance.

The contrast with Byrne, a seasoned act at this level, was instructive, the Irishman strolling around with the casualness of a performer who had nothing riding on the outcome. Yianni though, was more rooted to the centre of the stage initially, audience interjections throwing him slightly, the momentum of his delivery inconsistent. The difference was stagecraft. What appeared second nature to Byrne, the Australian took time to master, remarkably well by the end, though the effort was always apparent.

To be fair, when the popular Byrne suggests he's a nerd, it doesn't ring as true as it does for Yianni, who maintains that he's just off the autistic spectrum. Although delivered with a light touch, physics gags and mental health aren't obvious subjects for mainstream consumption.

By the nature of the gig, Yianni was playing to his own audience and he largely succeeded in bringing them with him on his more esoteric musings, despite the fact that many would have heard the same jokes in his free show and previous Fringe outings. He's good at intelligently aligning a crowd with his own ignorance, a routine on dark matter a witty reflection on the mutability of scientific evidence as manipulated by a cheeky schoolboy.

Elsewhere, he embraced his broader canvas, leading a singalong of his office drone take on The Banana Boat Song. Whatever you think of the merits of big rooms for comedy, catchily channelling Harry Belafonte with a touch of Freddie Mercury makes a decent case for the defence.

Arguably, he's at his most compelling when he's rooting his routines in the personal. His Greek-Cypriot heritage gifts him his eccentric grandmother but also the excuse for a hilarious recreation of the Greek finance minister appealing to the EU for another bailout, self-deprecatingly linked to his experience of being a man out of his depth.

Very few circuit acts would have the guts or, presumably, the willingness to take the financial hit on an event such as this. But without over-romanticising it, Yianni visibly grew in confidence and assurance as the hour progressed and his closing routine, on the female orgasm and the reality of threesomes capably synthesised the demands of broad, crowd-pleasing material with his own personality.

He may not have filled it this time and the balloons and party paraphernalia couldn't help but feel ironic. But thinking this big again in the future really shouldn't be beyond him.

Review date: 26 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson

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