Xavier Toby: Binge Thinking

A dinner party and a stand-up comedy performance might not seem to have much in common - and, in social terms, they don’t - but Xavier Toby gamely welcomed his first Edinburgh audience into the room as if they were dinner-guests just taking their coats off in the hall. Once settled, though, his small-talk swiftly veered towards dolphin sex, alcohol and female backpackers - perhaps that’s what Toby thinks Fringe audiences expect from an Australian stand-up, even when it’s only 6pm?

Toby’s far from being a shrinking violet - both physically and in terms of personality - so this opening routine risked crossing the line into conspicuous self-denigration. Yes, it relaxed the audience into the show, yet it failed to balance the decidedly one-sided narrative that followed.

At the heart of Binge Thinking is a global truism; that those who open themselves up to the wider world - in Toby’s case, by travelling the globe as a stand-up comedian (rather than as a fully qualified, but very unhappy, civil engineer) - soon find unbearable the company of those who stayed at home, settled down and became narrow-minded and ‘boring’. Unfortunately, Toby chooses to show this with an increasingly predictable progression through all the unthinking, reactionary bigotry which he clearly despises in his fellow Australians.

As a result, his just-too-neat-to-be-true dinner party rapidly moves from cooing over baby-pictures to discussing the big three No-Go areas of dinner party etiquette - religion, politics and money. And then, without segue, heads straight on to foreigners, global warming and gay rights. We’re not given any insight into why his now-former friends and their partners (succinctly represented by different brands of alcohol) have these reactionary ideas, beyond some talk of intellectual numbing and a focus on worldly goods; and always, of course, we’re left with Toby as the stand-alone, right-on, lone liberal and good guy.

Amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny, this show definitely has its heart and mind in the right places and Toby is a genuinely engaging performer. Unfortunately, his delivery at points feels constrained by the show’s central motif, while its well-meaning conclusions - though fervently delivered - risk coming across as a tad glib.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

The Blurb

People no longer read books, still invest in the stock market and live on junk food. We're getting dumber. Why? Sell-out Melbourne Comedy Festival, Adelaide Fringe. Directed by Adam Richard. **** (Adelaide Magazine). www.xaviertoby.com.