Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

It’s undoubtedly a year of feminism at this year’s first post-#MeToo Fringe. But however vital and empowering the movement, there are aspects of it that are ripe for mockery – starting with men who have co-opted the cause for smug, self-serving virtue-signalling, very concerned about appearing woke without actually opening their eyes.

This is where Tom Neenan comes in, portraying an egotistical version of himself, ‘one of the good guys’ he’s been to point out. When his girlfriend Hannah goes missing, his first thought is how he can use the incident to create an important piece of theatre that portrays him as a caring, vulnerable yet masculine figure, tracking her down and boosting his feminist credentials. And the cryptic last text she sent – ‘It’s Always Infinity’ – offers a tantalising mystery.

It a strong satirical core for what turns out to be a sharply-scripted character study of a man whose image of himself is vastly removed from reality, essential in any comedy creation.

The stage version of Neenan shuns the help of the Missing Persons Bureau to play the solo hero, yet ignores all the clues as he is too focussed on his self-aggrandisement, feeding his ever-growing narcissism. Not to mention his insecurities, as he assumes her ex must have had something to do with it; he never liked that guy and finds incontrovertible proof of his duplicity through some deep not-at-all-obsessed analysis of his social media.

Though credibility was always going to be stretched, the show loses some of its subtlety with the re-enactment of a ‘screenplay’ that depicts his first meeting with Hannah, a woman whose full nuance of character he captures by describing her in the cast list as ‘attractive’. Neenan may know what the Bechdel Test is and be able to mansplain it, but is always going to flunk it.

Hannah is portrayed by Rachel Parris, while Neenan offers his impersonation of the sparse few other characters in the story – most notably her friend Abigail, someone else he’s never taken a shine too, is depicted as a slow-witted type who speaks in his mocking mind like Reeves and Mortimer’s Stotts.

We’ve come to expect Neenan’s performances to be all-enveloping, and he makes his persona here believable enough, even when his actions are hyper-exaggerated. His elegant show uses multimedia to drop some sly delayed-gratification gags into the script while building organically to a wonderful comic twist that shows what a master of misdirection the real Neenan is. Certainly more smart and savvy than his alter-ego.

Review date: 23 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly George Square

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