Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Max and Ivan: The End, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jay Richardson
I’m not sure anyone is currently delivering live, multi-character comedy with more consistency than Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez. Returning to the Pleasance’s Queen Dome, arguably the Fringe’s most accommodating space for such carefully layered hi-jinks, the pair have set their latest opus within the isolated, inward-looking seaside town of Sudley-on-Sea. A haven for tapestry-knitting spinster sisters, a creepy poet, a scandal-ridden politician and a Spanish aftershave salesman among other colourful oddballs, it’s also the site of an ageing Soviet nuclear reprocessing plant, due to get an ill-advised upgrade.
The hero of this saga is Clive, a successful writer of children’s books and prodigal son returned home to meet the father who can’t forgive him for killing his mother in childbirth, source of several brutal asides. Even though disaster seems inevitable, Olesker and Gonzalez, under the direction of Pappy’s Tom Parry, take their time establishing the supporting framework of freaks, setting up sub-plots and enjoyable, tangential set-pieces that they can call on to enrich the main drama as it escalates.
Befitting their doom-laden scenario, there’s a certain darkness at the fringes but the overriding tone is one of frivolity, a bit of audience interaction adding an amusingly tortuous karaoke date to the mix. Adept physical performers, the creators of The Wrestling also display some pretty impressive carnal gymnastics. And there’s an endearing glimpse into the division of creative labour in their partnership.
Some of the recurring storylines are more finely drawn and entertaining than others, and it’s possible that they’ve rather over-stuffed their ensemble of grotesques this year, meaning that this is neither Max and Ivan’s most fluid or memorable show. Still, it’s a typically solid hour of first-rate comic acting and knockabout daftness, the pair consolidating their pitch for a higher profile.
Pleasance Dome (Venue 23), run ended
Published in The Scotsman on 29 August 2015
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