Nathan Penlington: Uri & Me at 2011 Brighton Fringe

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Of all the tricks Uri Geller pulled off, the most incredible has to be how he came to be so famous. He is a man primarily known for the conjuror’s illusion of spoon-bending – yet by ascribing the trick to psychic ability he became inexplicably massive in the Seventies, not only appearing in children’s games and comic books, but landing lucrative contracts with oil companies to ‘divine’ for hidden reserves. Maybe his psychically charged orange dots have something going for them after all.

This strange friend of Michael Jackson’s might be an easy comic target, but Nathan Penlington approaches in it a subtle way, professing to be in awe of the man, so both able to laud him and undermine him at the same time. Geller is never held up to simple ridicule, but he’s presented as, at the very least, an impressive showman. His odd beliefs – from numerology to alien encounters – are played with a reasonably straight bat; enough, indeed, to win Penlington an endorsement from the famously litigious man himself.

And there’s clearly some devotion gone into the research. Not only has Penlington bought up all his biographies – none of which can have cost him more than 1p on Amazon – but he’s gone as a far as tracking down a 1975 copy of Woman’s Realm as it contains an interview with his hero.

All this is interesting stuff, and Penlington’s metaphorically raised eyebrow with which he presents it is enough to make it entertaining as a dryly witty storytelling show. But the biographical elements are primarily a device on which Penlington can demonstrate a few of his own tricks in the mould of Geller (or even the avowedly non-mystic Derren Brown). Such set pieces, presented matter-of-factly with little showmanship, are not all entirely unfathomable, but the ones that aren’t are impressive indeed.

By the end of the show – still a work-in progress for Edinburgh – we’re none the wiser about what Penlington really thinks about the self-made guru, but we’ve got a new-found admiration for both performer and his subject.

Review date: 31 May 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Otherplace at Bar Broadway

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