It can probably be agreed that there’s a lot to be unhappy about in the world at the moment. The best place to escape most of this is arguably the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - but if you’re feeling ready to take a look and a laugh at the political and social issues currently facing society, from Trump to the so-called Islamic State and all things in-between, then this is the show for you.
A bittersweet counterbalance that will win you over in the end.
Drawing parallels between the sketchy state of political affairs in his home country of Australia and our own situation in Europe, Tom Ballard succeeds in immediately unifying his audience, regardless of their home country. His challenge, for the rest of the set, is to keep them that way. Treading the borderline of international and generational tensions whilst keeping everyone in the room happy is a daunting concept, but Ballard pulls this off with a cheeky smile and a stream of reassurance that he’s pleased to see us here.
I’ve never felt so welcomed by an act, which usually means we are in for a brutal subversion of our expectations - but this never comes. Latecomers are bantered with genially and surveys of the room are taken frequently in a hands-up fashion, bringing everyone into at least one in-joke during the evening. Through all this Ballard navigates topics ranging from conspiracy theories to cancer with an experienced deftness that entertains without offending.
Laughter is aplenty here, including onstage - sometimes this corpsing interferes with the pace of the set, although it is great to see that this material is fresh enough to still provoke such a reaction from its creator. Some of the pieces didn’t quite hit home - perhaps taking a survey of Hillary Clinton supporters in the room would have avoided this one - but the goal of a stand-up set is not to please everyone at once.
It’s a bittersweet counterbalance that will win you over in the end. Try as we might, bad stuff is going to happen in our small, polluted and prejudiced planet - but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves.