Burnistoun Live At The Fringe | Review by Steve Bennett

Burnistoun Live At The Fringe

Note: This review is from 2016

Review by Steve Bennett

Over its three series, Burnistoun built up quite the cult following among Scottish viewers, who warmly greet the characters and catchphrases on stage like old mates… which includes lobbing a few friendly but boisterous heckles their way.

Living South of the Border, I’d been denied the chance to see the show on the telly by the BBC, so was only on vague nodding terms with creations such as overexcited vlogger Jolly Boy John or the pakora-obsessed Quality Polis. So does it stand up as a live show without any prior knowledge of the weird inhabitants of the fictional Glaswegian suburb? The answer, almost inevitably given the clichéd ‘hit-and-miss’ verdict on sketch shows, is yes and no.

Iain Connell and Robert Florence certainly have a mischief and a chemistry that brings the scripts to life, even if the scenes can tend towards the familiar in their premises and execution.

We open with the polis atop a tall building, talking down a potential suicide, an enjoyable display of their lack of empathy, combined with a bit of mild slapstick, given that the only reason to give a character in a live comedy show a moustache has ever been to lark about as the adhesive fails.

A Silent Disco was an inventive take on an old format… it could have been a Two Ronnies musical number combining choreography into the patter, while the yoga sketch was another highlight, with the relaxing poses accompanied by far-from-soothing words of existential bleakness, both dark and funny.

Others skits are not so strong. Once you’ve set up the idea of a marriage guidance counsellor who only speaks in football manager cliches, for example, the sketch pretty much ‘writes itself’, which is precisely the problem.

Their bickering MPs are basically Baddiel and Newman’s History Today duffers, but with blunt insults about their wives’ promiscuity replacing the more eloquently childish: ‘That’s you, that is.’ And the deliberately laborious spelling out of the insults doesn’t half slow it down.

Speaking of misogyny, a sketch about clothing lines tried to peddle a social message about gender profiling, though you probably wouldn’t bet on all the laughs at the wildly sexist slogans being entirely ironic.

There was a nice take on the pretension of acting - apt in this town, at this time, more than ever. But it also played to Connell and Florence’s fortes of being loose and playful performances – especially when it comes to flirting with the audience. They break the fourth wall several times over the night - not so much that it undermines the whole premise, but just enough for a few in-jokes about the production or the way they underuse their supporting cast of Louise Stewart and Gerry McLaughlin.

If you’re new to Burnistoun, this is a solid but pretty conventional sketch show from charismatic performers. But if you’re already a fan, you can probably add another star.

Review date: 6 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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