The story of the Fringe is a story of the periphery. First there was the International Festival with a few pieces of avant-garde theatre clinging to its coat-tails. Then the theatrical outsiders began to thrive and with their ascendancy came the student companies. As they, in turn, were brought into the fold, the alternative comedians and the stand-ups began their influx and, as comedy rose to greater prominence, the stand-ups’ place on the outskirts began to be taken by a more diverse group, the cabaret performers.
I mention this because it shows how some of the real Fringe gold can be found lurking in less-fashionable quarters, a fact which is plain to me as I wander away from the New Town location of Club Rouge, right on the borders of Fringeland. Because the Tom Show is just such a piece of gold.
Tom Balmont is a conjuror, contortionist, comedian and conversationalist all rolled into one. His arsenal of card tricks, illusions and sleight of hand are held together with a fluid and assured flow of banter and his rapport with the audience is excellently facilitated by the close confines of the venue. And, naturally, all of these standard acts are performed with expertise and skill to meet the high standards of the Fringe.
However, what sets him apart from other acts in a similar vein are a couple of big experimental tricks which you won’t see anywhere else on the Fringe. I won’t tell you what they are as it’d spoil the impact but suffice it to say that I can see why other performers may not have the guts to perform them as both are extremely dangerous. And, in the intimate confines of the Club Rouge, where you’re painfully aware that there really is no safety net, both with have your heart in your mouth.
I’ve seen cabaret acts fill a full hour with half the material and a quarter of the charm that Tom Balmont exhibits here. Granted the Club Rouge is a little way out of town but it’s well worth the walk to see a magical act which embodies the true spirit of the Fringe.