Life from a bear’s point of view is as strange and wonderful as you would expect it to be. Daniel Nils Roberts ursine-themed
Some of the best character comedy you’re going to see this August.
The bear conceit is only loosely applied, allowing Roberts to get on with what he does best: coming up with sharp, punchy monologues for his creations. There are recurring and single-appearance characters: the former including a Spanish ‘facilitator’ figure, who wishes to play a more substantial role in the production, and a love-sick Barbara Cartland-esque romantic fiction author; the latter group consisting of a Christian-cookery teacher and a US Army cook veteran, among others. The recurring characters offer slightly fewer chances to laugh than the others – you get the sense that they were more fun to write than to see performed. However, they are all worthy of their places, the author character especially earning the right to her stage time as we get to the Waiting for Gaddot-like climax.
The one-off characters are where Roberts really earns his keep. The art historian figure in particular, who guides us through the wonders of Classical and Modern painting, is probably the best thing I have seen at this year’s Fringe. The section where he deadpans alternate names to great works of art as they are projected on the screen behind is so funny that it seems like Roberts is just showing off.
In between some sketches Roberts steps out of character and talks to us about his experience of Edinburgh from a performer’s point of view. A list of expenses doesn’t seem like the most fruitful topic for live comedy, but one that contains yogurt, a copy of Charlotte’s Web, and a flyering team dedicated to discouraging Daniel Sloss fans from attending the show belies this assumption. His novel method of tackling the ‘Edinburgh slump’, the 40-minute mark where audience’s attentions traditionally dip, adds another inventive dimension to the performer-outside-the-show shtick.
The only criticism that could be made is that the show felt a bit slow to start – whether a result of the audience taking its time to warm to proceedings or Roberts’ loading of the stronger characters to the second half of the piece. In any case, ‘time constraints’ mean that we miss the opportunity to see the show-stopping ski-jumping monk who has been built up through the show (maybe next time!). Even without, this is some of the best character comedy you’re going to see this August.