Chris Turner: XXV | Review by Jay Richardson
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Chris Turner: XXV

Review by Jay Richardson

With a surprisingly complementary mix of personal medical history and improvised rap, XXV is both fearlessly intimate and assuredly showy.

At 15, Chris Turner was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome. A disorder of the body's connective tissue, it explained the unusual length of his arms, tongue and other assorted physical quirks. Yet the strain it would put on the muscle around his heart also meant that he was given ten years to live.

Now 25, you can understand why it's right at the forefront of his thoughts. Having bounced back from the breakup he revealed in last year's show to find a new love, and with his career blossoming in the US, such a death sentence is rotten timing to say the least.

However, Turner is not one to sit around bemoaning his fate. Prior to the show, around a series of puckish, stop-start introductions, he can be seen performing a series of stretches and contortions by the door, elongating his lithe frame with practised manoeuvres. Twice over the course of the hour, he will lead the audience in what amounts to mini-yoga sessions. Far from knocking at heaven's door, he's the essence of vim and vitality.

Delivering a beat poem for his girlfriend, it's an eclectic, artfully inventive amalgamation of classic Swedish pop, West Coast gangsta rap, natural disasters, German language pun and Gossip Girl hating among other tropes. Above all though, it's sincere. Turner's heart may be fragile but he wears it on his freakily long sleeve.

Indeed, in every sense, there's very little side to this lanky comic. Notwithstanding his account of Boner Race, a contest in which teenage boys raced to achieve the first erection in their chemistry class, he's rare among privileged British comics in not being especially ashamed or self-deprecating about his private education.

Cliché though it may be, his awareness of his own mortality has clearly inspired a broader, carpe diem attitude. And he engagingly relates the other fundamental event that changed his life, a chance meeting with MC Supernatural in Manchester as an impressionable 12-year-old.

Turner is a phenomenally good improv rapper, excelling in the 'what's in your pocket?' game beloved by Abandoman of fashioning rhymes around the audience's personal effects, the more random the better. To prove it's no fluke, he later simply requests shouted suggestions, attracting such disparate subjects as 'the smell of Bitcoin' and 'Harold Shipman on speed', melding them into dizzying verses with accomplished virtuosity.

The raps and stretching sessions do take the audience out of the comedy and make the hour feel rather bitty. But if any venue cries out for such interruptions, it's the uncomfortable Pleasance Cellar.

Besides, despite diversions into the effectiveness of mounted police for dealing with drunks, the best way to cook bacon and his favourite restaurant in Paris, Turner always effectively brings the action back to the sobering moment of his initial medical diagnosis. Running gags and carefully deployed callbacks reinforce the feeling of structure and circularity.

Ultimately, it seems wholly fitting that his immediate future seems to lie in optimistic, can-do America. And who knows, with his fast mouth and application, he might even be able to supplant Chris Tucker results from his vanity Google searches.

Review date: 27 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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