Tadiwa Mahlunge: Inhibition Exhibition | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Tadiwa Mahlunge: Inhibition Exhibition

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Comedians tend to have little shame when it comes to talking about themselves on stage – but one thing few British stand-ups will admit is being nakedly ambitious.

Not so the self-assertive Tadiwa Mahlunge, who makes no bones about what he wants to achieve: money, and plenty of it. He got his zest for success from his mother, a single-minded African woman who instilled in him the need to keep striving for more. 

He acquired a first-class maths degree and the perfect RP accent, opening the door to a string of well-paid day jobs working in ethically dubious sectors such as finance and fossil fuels. ‘No one got out of poverty by doing the right thing,’ Mahlunge offers as he makes this confession.

But ‘confession’ is the wrong word; Mahlunge is positively proud of his LinkedIn resumé. Yes, some of his hedge fund colleagues were racist pieces of shit, but he’s making a success of his life, as his pay packets attest. And corporate life gives the show one of its funniest - and most eye-opening - routines as he shares an HR questionnaire about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Mum – who looms large in Mahlunge’s life, with a father effectively absent – was a founder of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change, a political coalition opposing Robert Mugabe, until she fled to Wales in fear for her life. Compared to her resilience, drive and work ethic, the comedian feels like a ‘weak little pussy’, relatively pampered in his life here.

And he is clearly still under her yolk, under pressure, even at just 25, to be a success and deliver the grandchildren she so desperately craves. This is perhaps the lot of the second-generation immigrant, to make their mark on their new environment. But whatever Mahlunge achieves doesn’t seem enough for his mum, who is reluctant to give him credit for his labours.

Though it’s not deeply examined, Mahlunge’s single-minded determination to get to the top might come into conflict with his other key trait – a desperation to be liked. Hence becoming a comedian, getting all that lovely approval from strangers in lieu of his mother’s respect. The dilemma is that there’s no money for him in stand-up, at least not now.

In his ceaseless drive for success, Mahlunge’s put together a slick, well-constructed and fast-moving Edinburgh debut that also highlights some other contradictions in his persona: he affects a casual air, even though his delivery has been highly polished and he’s personable, despite being confident to the point of arrogance. It all works, mind, as he’s in full control of the room and his sharp material that’s rich with eloquent, descriptive phrase-making.

And comedy is just like any other business in that ambition is at least as important as talent – probably more so – so watch him soar. He has the skills, but his drive is what makes him stand out. Though their styles are different, the circuit might just have created another Jimmy Carr

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Review date: 23 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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