Max & Ivan: Commitment | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Max & Ivan: Commitment

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

Fringe stalwarts Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez must have warped time to create this show. Somehow they have crammed about 90 minutes of story, some impressive set pieces, and jokes upon jokes upon jokes all into this one hour.

Their narrative, far more autobiographical than usual, is that Ivan appointed Max as best man for his wedding, which of course meant planning the stag do. Ivan’s got a great track record as a party-planner and had the notion of getting Ivan's adolescent band back together. However, that plan was hamstrung by the small issue that none of the other members, now flung to the four corners of the globe, wanted to do it. So what to do instead?

We start this warm celebration of the pair’s friendship before they met. Witness the embarrassing pictures of Ivan from back when he was the frontman of Voodoo 7:2, as well as some as Max in his teenage wrestling career. Cringe-inducing old photographs are often the mainstay of Fringe shows, but entertaining as they are, they are one of the less interesting parts of the jigsaw here. (The old recordings of Ivan's singing voice are quite a different matter).

Max tells the story of their shared history and party preparations with a relatively straight bat, while Ivan is the eccentric dolt, jumping in with wild digressions and idiotic misunderstandings – not to mention remarkably clear diction and expressive hands, as a previous review has pointed out. Not that Max is entirely off the hook in the shameful past stakes – he’s shown as having made some dubious youthful decisions, too.

Commitment is rammed with inventive in-jokes and savvy wordplay. It’s directed by fellow comic Kieran Hodgson, who has a track record for making multi-layered shows of his own, and the same discipline is applied here. That Ivan seems to live in a world of his own, obsessed with an obscure vocabulary-building app, a master of the art of facebusking, and creator of a new sort of rhyming slang (Ivanglish™) adds a delicious absurdity. You’ll never see a % sign in quite the same way again.

The keep this astonishing gag rate, production, script and performance are all drum-tight, perfectly timed to maximise the laughs from every aside, or every PowerPoint slide.

The fine bromance gives an emotional core to the myriad gags, while the narrative is absolutely compelling, from Max’s former party successes to the question of what he'll do  to give his pal the stag do he deserves. 

His commitment to one particular element is well beyond the call of duty, and while they’ve played fast and loose with some elements of the story for worthy cause of even more punchlines, the uplifting, feelgood conclusion has the ring of truth. Commitment is a thing of joy.

Review date: 16 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Dome

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