Wild Bore | Edinburgh Fringe theatre review by Steve Bennett
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Wild Bore

Edinburgh Fringe theatre review by Steve Bennett

Uncharacteristically, Chortle's Steve Bennett starts his review by mentioning himself. It’s as if the show he is critiquing has challenged him to consider that no observer can keep themselves entirely out of a review, however much they try, as everyone has ingrained prejudices simply from their place in society.

Wild Bore is about the critical reactions to art, taking as its starting point the hostile reviews its creators, Zoe Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott, have received for their past work, usually in cabaret and comedy.

Given that premise, Bennett is a conflicted figure. How to comment upon their show without further stoking the fire? Perhaps he’s redundant entirely, especially as the three performers he’s supposed to be reviewing voice the harshest possible criticism of the show while they are actually doing it – Is it too much of an in-joke? Is it self-indulgent? Is it petty?

Certainly, he's been robbed the ‘arse'-nal of bum jokes you'd expect to find in an article about a project in which the three performers bare their bums, in a very literal demonstration of critics talking out of their backsides. They’ve already taken all the best ‘cracks begin to appear…’ type lines for themselves. What’s a headline-writer to do?

As a reviewer himself, you might expect Bennett to mount some sort of response to the attacks on the hyperbole, metaphor and common tropes associated with his line of work, which Wild Bore highlights, not least the ill-advised phrase ‘for no apparent reason’. The trio make the point that there is purpose in everything on stage – and that’s certainly the recurring, slightly laboured, point of their Traverse Theatre show. However, Bennett is caught in a catch-22, not wanting to look as if the critic can’t take criticism… even if he does believe that any creators saying ‘you just don’t get it’ about their work can indicate a failing for their show as much, if not more than for the observer.

Then Bennett hits upon the bright idea reviewing his own unwritten review. Does his decision to start writing in the third person, for no apparent reason, indicate an empathy with the aims of Wild Bore? Or just an appropriation of their self-referential techniques to make it look like he’s in on a joke at his profession’s expense? 

A review of a review of a show that reviews itself, then re-views those reviews in a different context? It may sound like a Russian doll of solipsistic wankery, as might Wild Bore itself, but there’s comedy at its core, with outlandishly funny imagery in the way the show is executed with both commitment to the absurd and a playful, self-knowing tone – which Bennett would be well advised to adopt in his own work.

Valid points are raised in the show, if not in Bennett’s subsequent review, about how what’s on stage, particularly nudity, is interpreted by a male critic… while the three white, cis female performers also acknowledge other prejudices ingrained in the world of theatre.

Bennett might suggest some of the prop-based scenes go on too long, or question whether complaining about bad reviews (or Twitter comments) is so exceptional, or of much concern to outsiders. But that would just be to expose the futility of his position. What sort of job is it to tell someone whether they should be finding something funny or not anyway? No wonder professional critics are an endangered species.

Review date: 19 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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