sat 30/09/2023

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Ania Magliano / Elliot Steel / Alexandra Haddow | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Ania Magliano / Elliot Steel / Alexandra Haddow

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Ania Magliano / Elliot Steel / Alexandra Haddow

A bad hair day, testicular fun, and saying sorry

Anna Magliano's new show is ostensibly about having a bad haircut

Ania Magliano, Pleasance Courtyard

When Ania Magliano made her Fringe debut last year, her show was rightly garlanded with four- and five-star reviews. She sounded like an original voice on the comedy scene and this year her show, I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This, sold out its entire run before the festival opened.

An hour that is ostensibly about the comic’s worst haircut doesn’t sound enthralling, but of course it works both as metaphor about overcoming adversity and a structure for the comedy as Magliano talks about her recovery from a sexual assault.

She uses the hairdresser’s lack of tonsorial skills as a jumping-off point to muse on past relationships, her bisexuality, the attractiveness of gossip, conversations with her therapist, and taking up boxing (leading to a clever joke about fourth-wave feminism) and why she decided to have breast reduction surgery – the last of which has an unexpectedly scatological payoff.

Magliano moves seamlessly from observational comedy to the surreal, from routine life events to darker parts of her psyche. There’s always a danger that a show that reveals so much might move dangerously close to comedy as therapy, but Magliano has enough big laughs in the hour to draw it back, and it ends on an upbeat note.

Elliot Steel, Underbelly Cowgate 

“I’m a nepo baby,” Elliot Steel, son of acclaimed comic Mark Steel, tells us near the top of the show. Yes, he has had a leg up in the industry because of who his dad is – but he’d prefer it if pater were the CEO of some multinational company. It's good to get that out of the way because the 25-year-old is very much his own man in comedic terms  – although their relationship does contribute a very good running gag in  Love and Hate Speech.

Steel has packed a lot into his young life, and he takes us on quite a journey as he describes growing up in a left-wing home – buying a game of Monopoly was his form of rebellion – parental break-up, his emotional problems as a teenager, male friendship and his route back into health through discovering mixed martial arts.

Much of the comedy is dark, and agreeably so, even though I’m not sure Steel is always being quite as edgy as he thinks – he mentions transgender issues and Andrew Tate briefly but then moves swiftly on from both.

The show's strong closing section is about an injury to his genitals that Steel  sustained in a jiu-jitsu session. He gives a trigger warning before he goes into gory detail about possibly losing a testicle – and men in the audience may want to cover their ears at this point, as it’s full-on. It produces some of the biggest laughs – and biggest groans – of the night as he describes the maelstrom of emotions involved, not least the urge to have one last wank with both testicles intact.

Some anecdotes are so-so but this is an accomplished hour of confessional comedy from a comedian finding his own distinctive voice.

 

Alexandra Haddow, Pleasance Courtyard 

Alexandra Haddow has something to get off her chest in her debut show, Not My Finest Hour. When she was 25 she had an affair with an older, married man who was a minor television personality; she knew he was married but assumed he and his wife had “an understanding” as she lived for part of the time in France.

Now she wants to say sorry, and explain the context of the affair. It’s a very good contrivance for confessional comedy and Haddow’s  warm personality should easily disarm any more judgmental members of the audience.

She grew up in Corby, a steeltown known as Little Scotland for the high number of workers who moved south when it was built. Her father is Scottish, her mother English – “That counts as exotic in Corby” – and she felt that success meant leaving for London at the earliest opportunity. She lived the “cool” London life to the full, and being sexually free-spirited was part of that, she says.

The affair and its consequences are threaded through the show as Haddow talks about her previous job in the media, losing her virginity and being dumped shortly after, and the pointlessness of sober raves – “You’ve just paid to exercise at night."

Haddow has some smart lines and, while the ending could be smoother as she draws the show’s threads together, this is a confident debut.

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