Just one glance at this year’s stuffed-to-bursting wedge of a programme is enough to see that there are bewildering array of performance disciplines represented at this year’s Fringe. Absurdist, contemporary stand-up; immersive, audio-visual Shakespeare; one-woman historical-drama gin-tasting. However, this year’s line-up also showcases a strong offering exploring an art form i didn’t expect to see - the hybrid of mime, physical comedy and athletics known as pro-wrestling. And central to this line-up is the one-man show by legend of wrestling, ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan.
Light entertainment from a bonafide heavyweight.
Am I being a bit facetious describing wrestling as a performance art? Maybe. But there’s a valid point to be made about how you approach this show. Duggan’s shtick doesn’t flow in the same way many stand-up shows would - more a loose collection of anecdotes than a flowing narrative - but no-one can deny that he’s as seasoned, charismatic and theatrical a performer as anybody else at the Fringe with a broad sense of humour that matches his material perfectly.
When it comes to the material, it’s a rough and ready selection of stories covering the highlights of Duggan’s career, from his star-making turns against Junkyard Dog and Ted DiBiase, to his tribute-filled swan-song appearance at the Royal Rumble to the tragic demise of Damien (it’s not as bad as it sounds, promise) - all told with humbleness and candour.
My only issue with this show comes from its structure - a roughly 75-25 split of selected highlights from Duggan’s career vs. an open Q&A from the audience. Whilst the stories are obviously colourful and amusing, they have the feel of well-seasoned material, trotted out regularly and so can seem a little over-rehearsed. By contrast, when spontaneously answering open questions, Duggan’s natural wit and charm shines through and it feels like you get a better glimpse of the man behind the gimmick. These are the moments I enjoyed most and the ones I wished there were more of.
If you’re not interested in the world of the squared circle, this show probably isn’t for you but then it’s probably not on your radar either. If, however, you want to dig deeper into the modern mythos of the wrestling world then Duggan’s been everywhere, fought everyone and has the scars and the stories to prove it. Light entertainment from a bonafide heavyweight.