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Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Roman Around: A Guided Tour Of The Eternal City
Comedian Ryan Millar weaves historical tales into a simulated tour of the great sights of Rome. Stories of murder, sabotage, and very public embarrassment. Irreverent and mildly educational.
When in Rome… become an unlicensed tour guide. That’s what Canadian Ryan Millar did when he found himself in the Eternal City, in pursuit of a girl and having very few career options given his ignorance of the Italian language.
Should you be expecting any high drama or romantic storytelling about his exploits as a stranger abroad, however, lower your expectations. This is very much all about the tour-guiding, and the facts he imparted to his travellers.
He alternates between being ‘in character’, telling us tales from Rome’s rich history, and being himself, sharing stories from his very much briefer history in the job, involving the occasional run-ins with the largely easy-going police and the odd rival guide, who could be a bit more fiery.
The result is less stand-up, and more an entertaining history lesson, with stories both familiar and less well known: Romulus and Remus, the Trojan Horse (as a preamble to Rome’s founding), Nero’s incompetent regime, why the Pope now employs only Swiss Guards, and how Michelangelo, a sculptor, happened to get that Sistene Chapel fresco job.
Given the vast array of bonkers popes and ridiculous decadent emperors, there are a great many tales he chooses not to tell, but by crikey he must have made a cracking tour guide as he brings the yarns he does include to vivid life with engaging gusto. I defy anyone not to get the urge to see that inspiring Sistene roof once Millar has told his Michelangelo story. He may never have been an official guide, but the ought to be paid by the Italian Tourist Board now.
While it’s thoroughly enjoyable, the comic elements are infrequent, often relying only on telling an epic tale with a flick of modern slang, an inappropriately casual turn of phrase, or arch tone. There’s a handful of jokes of varying quality – for every obvious parallel with modern times there’s a pithily funny expression – but they play second fiddle to the facts.
It’s all fun, but there’s no drama and little of Millar’s personality beyond his well-practised storytelling skills in the show. Which means it’ll kill an idle hour, but it’s probably not a must-(Holy) see.
|Date of live review: Friday 6th Aug, '10|
Review by Steve Bennett
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