Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2008
Desperate to reduce US carbon emissions, an environmentalist joins Al Qaeda. Explosive new comedy about struggling to 'think globally, act locally'.
Abie Philbin Bowman is an undeniably brave comic, striving for thought-provoking satire. The fact that Eco-Friendly Jihad eventually collapses under the weight of its own ambition and self-regard shouldn’t detract from admiration for what he’s trying to achieve by pitting the two great concerns of the age, climate change and terrorism, against each other.
Demonstrating one of the great unspoken phenomena of global warming, visible Irish knees, Bowman is a relaxed, softly spoken, slightly hippyish presence. Perched on a stool in shorts, sandals and beard, his crusading persona is subtle and you can only guess at the degree of self-mockery when he describes himself as ‘the Rosa Parks of Irish stand-up’.
After touring his 2006 Fringe show, Jesus: The Guantanamo Years around the world, from the US to Pakistan, transporting an orange jumpsuit through customs, he’s acquired a taste for being viewed with suspicion. At the same time, he’s arrived at the persuasive logic that climate change is real, because all those who claim otherwise are supporters of George W Bush.
Well-read and articulate in his political views, Bowman is effective in eliciting laughter from such depressing subjects as Kurdish history. Yet unlike say, Mark Thomas, or Robert Newman, he’s not content to let the facts speak for themselves, blurring the line between reality and fantasy to a discomforting degree.
But Bowman loses his show’s central gamble and literally, members of his audience with his detailed story of courting a Bangladeshi girl, who convinces him that joining Al Qaeda makes sound environmental sense.
Whether this leap into absolute implausibility has been set up sufficiently gradually and effectively enough to satisfy or indeed, to resist causing offence, is definitely a matter of individual taste.
Bowman doesn’t help his cause by closing with a couple of glib songs: a summary of everything he knows about climate change to the tune of REM’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, and a dedication to Mother Nature’s indomitability via I Will Survive. But as a piece of risk-taking art, Eco-Friendly Jihad is undeniably intriguing to watch.
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson