Mark Forward Wins All the Awards | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney
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Mark Forward Wins All the Awards

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney

I like it when I find a comic hard to describe; when comparisons to other comedians aren’t coming easy. Mark Forward is one such act. 

The Canadian’s second appearance in Edinburgh is an unusual mix of light and dark, part-whimsy and part-brutal reality. One minute he’s doing something cute with a bee prop, making friends with the bee, having fun with the bee. The next minute, the bee has gone, Forward’s big heart broken – because that’s what happens in life, get over it. 

Then there’s his style. It’s a massive ‘fuck off’ to everything and everyone. He enters the show on the phone, seemingly oblivious to our presence, and makes sandwiches for his son in an attempt to multi-task his way out of his busy-ness. Every prop he uses – including all the buttered bread – he hurls to the back of the stage, done with them, dead to him. 

He prowls the stage like a grumpy bear, talking to us almost exclusively about death. He circles us, frequently disappearing down the side of the audience then reappearing at the top of the opposite stairs, tightening his prey (that’s us) into a ball. In his foul mood, he pre-empts people’s criticisms, taking the piss out of critics who might not like his abrasive style, lambasting the crowd for not matching his physical effort with a simple applause.

It’s funny. At times very funny indeed. He considers his own mortality, how he wouldn’t like to die at Christmas time – for this he has a funny song on the uke. He knows that he wants to play Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero at this funeral, all five minutes 50 seconds of it. 

To illustrate how annoying this would be, he plays the whole thing for us, pretending it’s not his decision but his mutineering tech, who is trying to sabotage his show. He screams blue murder at her for the duration of the song. It’s the sort of thing that might seem funny on paper but it was actually genuinely annoying, the only duff moment of the show, and one that went on so long that he had a rebuilding job to do after it. If he paced his rising anger a bit more during the song, rather than peaking early and leaving himself nowhere to go, it might work. 

A proppy retelling of The Cat And The Fiddle is one of the best sections, even though it feels disconnected from the rest of the show. He takes the nursery rhyme as a real love story, before it all goes wrong. Like his bee work, it’s a deliberate undercutting of cutesy comedy, and it works. It looks like the sort of thing a therapist might get someone to do – ‘use the plate and the spoon to show what your parents did’0type thing. Forward’s family play a large part in the show: his sister’s cancer, his dad’s belief in the soul going somewhere special after death. 

It’s the show of someone who’s probably been through some bad stuff of late, but it has at its heart a big, strong message: keep going. Life is hard, but it can be good again. His clever ending is the cherry on top of a memorable, unique and very funny show.

Review date: 18 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Paul Fleckney

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