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.