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Chandrika Chevli: Where's My Bike?

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

If anyone who wants to put on a show at the Fringe needs their head examined, actress and Radio 2 newsreader Chandrika Chevli must be he best-qualified performer in Edinburgh. For last August she underwent all manner of scans and tests when, cycling home on the first day of the festival, she suffered a potentially fatal brain injury after losing a fight with a taxi.

Yes, this is a comedy show about serious neurological damage, containing plenty of complex phrases like ‘expressive aphasia’. And although Anglo-Burmese-Swiss(!) Chevli brings an assured lightness of touch to this bleak subject, it’s clearly never going to be a laugh riot.

But there are jokes and her warmth, wit and honesty are compelling. Aside from the difficult description of what happened to her brain when her skull hit the concrete, the story is a largely positive one. After all, she’s alive (spoiler alert, as she says) and more lucid than a lot of comedians who haven’t suffered a heavy blow to the head.

She doesn’t remember the accident, or indeed the first few days in hospital, though her friends tell her she didn’t recognise them, could barely speak but would constantly demand to know what had happened to her bike, hence the title. As her faculties slowly started to come back online, she kept asking to be allowed out to see shows, unaware of the severity of her injuries. She was, it seems, was something of a bitch to the medical staff who thought that might not be such a good idea.

But remarkably quickly, she returned to something approaching her normal self. As someone who earns her living from acting and ‘reading aloud’, the fact that her communication skills were affected is clearly worrying – though you wouldn’t know it. After all, she can memorise and deliver an hour-long show, it’s just that it takes more effort than it once did. But such brain training is part of the recovery process – making Chad, as friends call her, surely the only person who has genuinely come to the festival for the good of her health.

As a Fringe addict, both as observer and performer, she has also created something of a love letter to the festival here, as her compulsion to return was a motivational factor and her affection for all the Edinburgh hoopla is clearly genuine. The information about her injuries and her recuperation are interesting, without overwhelming, and she keeps the tone light by extracting chuckles from peripheral topics, especially her Walter Mittyish father.

You emerge from the brisk hour surprisingly upbeat, not just because the incredible speed of her recovery is inspiring, but because of the easy charm with which this engaging raconteur tells a difficult story.

Review date: 24 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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