Theatre review: Champ

Edinburgh Fringe Scotsman review: Champ at Assembly Roxy (Venue 139), reviewed by Susan Mansfield

It must be every actor’s nightmare: you dream of doing Shakespeare and Mamet, but you end up sweating in a teddy bear suit in a shopping mall for less than the minimum wage. In Louis Viljoen’s black comedy, part of the South African season at Assembly Festival, Stanley, Melvin and Elliot are men living through the daily destruction of their dreams.

They can be an infuriating trio, given to actorly strops (Elliot), vocal exercises (Stanley) and sexual posturing (Melvin) and there is a limit to the amount of humour which can be mined from being smutty in a teddy bear costume.

But actors Nicholas Pauling, Mark Elderkin and Oliver Booth pitch their characters well, aided by a deft comic performance from Pierre Malherbe as their camp producer. When a particularly noxious child goes a step too far, we find ourselves almost unexpectedly on their side.

Viljoen’s script is foul-mouthed and sometimes overwritten, but it masks a darker subtext about what it means to work in a thankless job for an uncaring employer, and the crushing disappointment of heading into the world full of dreams only to find yourself “swallowed by the gaping anus maw of mediocrity”.

MORE INFO: Champ is at Assembly Roxy

Originally published in The Scotsman

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