Alfie Brown: Scissor | Review by Steve Bennett
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Alfie Brown: Scissor

Review by Steve Bennett

Alfie Brown hates Adele. Really hates Adele. Not just her singing, which he hates. But her lyrics, which he boils down to: ‘It’s all probably someone else’s fault; no further self-analysis needed.’

It’s the exact opposite of Brown’s comedy, in which he subjects himself to the most intense scrutiny and shares his often unflattering results, And not just himself, much of society gets the same forensic examination – before concluding that Adele stems from the same cultural mulch as Islamic State. Did I mention that he really hates Adele?

Scissor is a fiercely intelligent hour, wide in its scope, penetrating in its analysis. The results are engrossing and compellingly conveyed… but it’s also one of those shows which sacrifices a fair bit of funny as Brown puts philosophising over punchline.  There’s a lot of them about this Fringe.

Fatherhood and his relationship with fellow comic Jessie Cave, previously documented by them both, has made him a changed man, and a changed comic. He’s not the raw cocktail of rampant anger and bleak nihilism he once was, but he’s not exactly the jaunty everyman comic making relatable observations about Sunday DIY either. He’s as fiercely cynical about relationships and sexual mores as he is about humanity in general.

An habitual contrarian, he confesses to being a racist sometimes and convincingly argues that it’s OK to objectify the opposite sex – then makes the tongue-in-cheek demand that if full gender equality is the aim, he should be granted the same sexual privileges as a woman.

Partly this is provocative for its own sake, to shake up complacency. He talks with the conviction of a demagogue and applies a relentless logic. But he works with nuance, challenging the doctrines we’re supposed to accept as given. His standpoint can be intriguingly ambiguous, arguing the case for opinions he may or may not hold, but he’s very convincing.

Brown’s writing is as powerful as his performance, with a mastery of the pithy maxim. ‘Having just one drink is like having a Russian doll and never opening it up,’ he opines of the missed opportunities responsible drinking means. His fine words conjure up potent images – even if it’s a vivid mental picture you could do without, as he magnifies the dread of imagining your parents having sex a hundredfold, or describes a filthy ballet of ejaculate in a heavenly orgy.

Bold ideas match the bold words, from describing how we’ve come a slave to the selfie, while losing our actual sense of self, and how blandness has taken over our culture.

Yet fascinating and audacious as this is, those elegant phrases don’t often enough break through into hilarious punchlines. He doesn’t push through laughs as determinedly and as passionately as he pushes through his arguments.

One year Brown will surely be at the eye of the perfect storm of comic and intellectual brilliance to create the must-see show of the Fringe. This one isn’t it – again – but he’s never less than a fascinating performer, eloquently firing doubt into your once-certain worldview.

Review date: 18 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Laughing Horse @ City Cafe

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