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Markus Birdman: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Julian Hall

‘Don’t heckle. I’m too old for that now,’ announces Markus Birdman at the top of his show. The bagpiper outside hasn’t heard him, but he soon quietens. But there will be no need to get us to pipe down as Birdman’s flow commands attention.

At 42, Birdman maintains he’s ‘half-dead’, at least mathematically speaking. Mentally and physically speaking, he seems on ebullient form. However, he recently has cause to reflect on his own vulnerability and mortality though when he suffered a stroke.

At first, because of the timing of it, the attack was put down to a hangover, but, when a loss of vision in one eye persisted he went to the opticians and a journey through the NHS began.

Birdman dips in and out of his story to muse on related topics, or to punctuate each step of his medical experiences, – such as intrusive questionnaires – with a joke. Occasionally his jokes are corny, but always pithy. Often he’s too quick for his audience or maybe too sly. A joke about a brain scan looking like a ‘laser bukkake’ almost goes over everyone’s heads.

Explorative surgery reveals more about his condition, clearing up what was a mystery to the doctors and forcing Birdman into a longer hospital stay. Patients around him find god, but Birdman - the son of a vicar who has spent many of his last Edinburgh shows illustrating how not religious he is – does not.

Instead what Birdman finds is six rules for living. They are noted on the tableau behind him, a collection of the former art student’s smart doodles, including depictions of Mexico’s ghoulish Day Of The Dead characters. Oh his set list is on there too, but Birdman is too accomplished a showman to ever let anyone see if he needed prompting.

The tips for living are all quite obvious; love, friends, taking pleasure in the little things and being your best… This hardly matters because their general nature allows free reign on examples, but they are well chosen to illustrate his point rather than feeling shoe-horned in. Quite simply they are born out of first-hand experience and not cliché – just like the rest of the show.

Review date: 20 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Julian Hall
Reviewed at: Stand 2

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