Jordan Brookes: Bleed | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Jordan Brookes: Bleed

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

Intense and inventive Jordan Brookes has made his name by applying the same plasticity to the definition and conventions of comedy as he does to his own body in his most physical of routines. By being so avant-garde, he’s walked a tightrope over a pit of pretentiousness… but this year he may just have fallen in.

Bleed – a theatrical examination of the stand-up’s ego – is bold and unique, but also unhinged, necessarily solipsistic, and tied to a gimmick that underperforms on the investment put into it. It’s an easier show to admire for its audacity than to love.

The hour is built on the idea that he split up with a girlfriend over a joke about their relationship, and which he refused to take out of his set - parallels perhaps with the real-life travails Louise Reay encountered for talking about her ex on stage

Doggedly sticking to his principles makes him, in his own words, ‘the riskiest comedian in the biz’, a phrase that’s repeated  into meaninglessness over the show. But was the relationship-ending gag included for artistic merit? Or because his fragile sense of self needs the validation the ensuing laughs gives? And are we, the audience, complicit in all this by feeding him those very laughs in the first place.

That’s the (relatively) simple premise, but nothing in Bleed is straightforward. We know that, and he knows that we know that, and onwards ad absurdum. With the lines between the scripted and the ad libbed blurred, he suggests that he will one day die on stage and, like Tommy Cooper, we will assume it’s part of the act. If he clutches his chest and collapses, it will be for real, he tells us… and we don’t believe him.

Tetchiness with the venue and the noise bleed from the courtyard outside is an external manifestation of the insecurities that blight him. And thought a bit fo theatrical jiggery-pokery we hear the voices inside his head, too, like a radio station full of prattling presenters. By the time this reaches its nadir, Brookes is half-naked, convulsing in breakdown. It’s full-on and weird, closer to disturbing than funny.

In fact, taken as a whole, the hour is more experimental theatre than comedy, and performed with a rare intensity… although  before things go too insane,  Brooks, is more mischievous with the shifting expectations and the oddities of his own psyche to try to generate the laughs, though the material never quite catches alight. And by the end, those lunatics in his head have taken over completely and all is unhinged.

Review date: 10 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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