Arna Spek: Museum Piece | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett
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Arna Spek: Museum Piece

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

This is not a show. Advertised for an hour, it runs for 40 minutes. It starts with five minutes of audience interaction and features a ten-minute guest spot, leaving 25 minutes for Arna Spek herself. That’s not a show, that’s a club set with a bucket speech.

Nor is there any purpose to the show. Museum Piece suggests something intelligent and focussed on the topic of the title – even if the midnight slot in a cave doesn’t. But despite asking every one of us in the room what our favourite museum is in her time-filling preamble, it’s not a strongly themed routine.

She just happens to work at the Museum of London, where she gets fed up of people asking her more questions about the location of the toilets than the exhibits. Some of these are work in-jokes that don’t translate to the stage, such as teasing people from the London Transport Museum mocking them about ‘how are you getting home’ or something. I’m sure that slays in the canteen.

The rating isn’t so much about Spek’s qualities as a newish comedian: She seems nice enough as a stand-up with a puppyish, wide-eyed, eager-to-please manner. There are a couple of good jokes, but also a lot of flab, especially given the shortness of the set. She might emerge as a good stand-up, in time. 

She’s just here too soon, bowing to the pressure of ‘doing Edinburgh’ without considering what she might want to say; how this unambitious here-for-the-sake-of-being-here chat will stack up against all those comedians pouring heart and soul into an hour of emotional impact, great storytelling, boundary-pushing invention or gag-packed silliness. She should be doing 20 minutes in a line-up show, not this.

Tonight’s guest was Heidi Regan, who just won the BBC New Comedy award, so that was a decent ten minutes, overshadowing the headliner.

Of Spek’s set, the off-topic half is about her moving from the Netherlands to London, visiting Mauritius for the first time to meet her boyfriend’s family, learning the meaning of the word ‘snog’ – which sounds great in her Dutch accent.

On her day job, there’s a quick, amusing anecdote about a colleague who sends unaccompanied skeletons in the lift to the shock of visitors, a witty image if not embellished much.

But her big payoff bit on the museum doesn’t work. She thinks it amusing that we make a light-hearted family exhibit about the Great Fire Of London, a huge disaster that destroyed an entire city, which is a reasonable point. 

But the joke is to ponder if we would do the same about a modern disaster 350 years from now, she pondered? My mind leapt to Grenfell Tower, which seemed grim. Hers leapt to Brexit, which might be a calamitous political decision, but surely isn’t equivalent to wholesale destruction of a city. Her punchline was that we might, in centuries’ time, have jaunty souvenir canvass bags marking Brexit… But that’s not a ridiculous image, you can get them now.

One take-out: You will learn the genuinely fascinating historical origin of the phrase ‘to take the piss’. But you’ll also experience its modern usage, in thinking an undercooked 25-minute set could possibly be considered a show.

Review date: 24 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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