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Discover Ben Target: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

This is the sort of mad experience – ‘show’ doesn’t seem to be quite the right word – that ought to be part of everyone’s Fringe. Ben Target, his surname pronounced as if he were French, engineers a series of bizarre  ‘happenings’ to disorientate the audience, with a result that’s usually fun, but sometimes just plain disorientating.

‘Please adjust your mental filters for something a little bit different and rather beautiful,’ he announces, with the superior arrogance that defines his persona. It’s a diluted version of Simon Munnery’s League Against Tedium character, imposing his eccentric will on the people, aided by a small army of henchpeople in white protective suits that evokes a post-apocalyptic world. The overall feeling is of being held hostage by an unhinged genius, toying with you as he decides your fate.

That’s combined with prop comedy and modern clowning. Target has an almost endless arsenal of items concealed about his person, ready to produce for a quick, silly visual gag. Card tricks, tokens of his affection for an unsuspecting front-row punter, a birthday cake – all are produced for memorably absurd moments, usually backed with a solid gag, too, not just odd for its own sake.

There’s a slight sense of distance in all this, that it’s an academic exercise in being amusingly weird, rather than following the instincts of a natural clown – but nonetheless he’s studied well, and the application of theory works well, whether in the all-inclusive game that gets us over the ’40-minite slump’ or the finale that has us all trooping out into the streets of Edinburgh, baffling passers-by.

While elements might feel familiar, their destination rarely is: a simple noughts and crosses game, for example, unleashes Target’s hidden self-loathing and demands that his worthy opponent absolutely humiliate him. And humiliated he most certainly is, in a way that will take a long time to erase from your mind.

It’s an ambitious debut show (though he previewed a shorter version at the 2011 Fringe) which he pulls off with aplomb. The delivery could do with more heart – but it’s got plenty of balls.

Review date: 26 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Cowgate

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