Tony Law and Phil Nichol: Virtue Chamber Echo Bravo

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

To describe this as an affectionate parody of a safe-space seminar for wokeness and healing, as its programme blurb suggests, would be to impose far more structure and intent on to the show than Fringe veterans Phil Nichol and Tony Law ever plan to deliver.

They occasionally reference their premise, but it’s only really the flimsiest of backdrops for the two Canadian pals to muck about as much as they want. And that’s a lot. They will certainly go anywhere with their ad-libbing: in this show Nichol conjured up the ghost of Jeffrey Epstein, but then seemed surprised when, like the paedophile pimp’s jail cell, there was no way out.

But they celebrate anything that doesn’t land just as much as the riffs that do. In this way it is a real safe space for them as they are granted ultimate freedom to do what they will, away from the censorious eyes of the Twitter taste police. We laugh at their many success, forgive their few missteps.

When their freeform riffing gets too manic they evoke their reputed theme, softening their voices and lapsing into faux sympathy as they talk smugly about ‘healing’. It’s a device to put a brake on their excesses.

They give themselves a topic each day. Today it’s Brexit, though the biggest British political issue of the day is reduced to some dodge Dutch accents. A very catchy song whose lyrics are entirely ‘Nick Clegg’, is as deep as the political discourse gets. But it’s damn catchy and we all chant along.

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Amid the chaos and the anarchy, a few set pieces offer some framework, including some audience participation when they try to reprogramme a ‘Nazi’ they think they’ve uncovered in the audience. 

And sometimes it seems like they main purpose of the show seems to be to sell merch. They have T-shirts and badges and pencils bearing their simple Virtue Chamber Echo Bravo logo and the Latin motto ‘adulescens habet scientiam’, a very rough translation of: ‘The youth has no knowledge.’

‘Very rough’ is, of course, the tone of the show – and the pair talk excitedly over each other all the time, which can be hard to unpick. But the sense of spontaneity encourages the audience to loosen up, too, and celebrate the spirit of creativity; the spirit of the Fringe no less. It’s a mess, but a glorious mess.

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Published: 14 Aug 2019

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2001

Phil Nichol


Edinburgh Fringe 2003

Phil Nichol

Twelve Angry Men


Edinburgh Fringe 2007

Killer Joe

Phil Nichol: Hiro Worship


Edinburgh Fringe 2008

Phil Nichol [2008]


Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Intervention

Phil Nichol Rants!


Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Phil Nichol: Twenty


Agent

Glorious Management
Contact by email
Lower Ground Floor
79 Noel Road
N1 8HE
Office: 020 7704 6555

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