Phil Ellis Has Been On Ice | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett
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Phil Ellis Has Been On Ice

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

It’s chaos, of course it is. But Phil Ellis’s new show needs something to ground it, something normal for his shambolic personality to undermine. In Funz And Gamez, the breakout cult hit he also fronts, it’s the children’s activities. But here his tissue-thin premise isn’t enough, crumbling before we start, leaving nowhere to go over the hour but round in circles.


There’s a lot of empathy for Ellis’s man-adrift persona – still bitter after wife Leanne left him, a gag that even he concedes has been milked dry – and plenty of his clowning is so preposterous it blasts through any objection.

The set-up is that he was cryogenically frozen in 2014 after winning the Edinburgh Panel Prize, but also with only an hour to live. In this last hour, he has to successfully complete a number of tasks because… oh, who cares why, the plot is hardly War and Peace. 

Even Ellis and the robot who sets the challenges, TK Maxx (though Poundland might be a better name given where his component parts must have come from), can’t really be bothered to explain, talking over each other with ad-libbed half-jokes as if to alleviate the tedium of ploughing through this drivel one more time.

Once the show’s under way properly, audience members are recruited to help in the tasks such as erecting a tent blindfold and doing physical exercises, all shambolically executed, naturally; a bit Generation Game.

 And then there’s the interlude where he ‘downloads’ all the events of the past three years. The image of him dancing inappropriately as a montage of photographs from such horrors as the bloody Syrian war play in the background is a juxtaposition that’s a bit tough to swallow, bleak reality jarring against the silliness.

There are laughs, most of which comes from the comedians at the back, who are the most attuned to the joke about the amateurish shenanigans. Some gags are even just for them. For example, a condition he suffers from is given the initials PBJ, the name of his ex-agent.

For the wider audience, some of it is preposterously funny – the gloves he’s  had made are priceless – much of it self-indulgent. While the games got repetitive, Ellis’s tacit awareness of how ludicrous everything is keeps the vessel afloat, just about, despite the leaks springing everywhere.

Review date: 23 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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