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Edinburgh Festival review – Alex Horne

Tuesday, August 16 2011

As with other Horne shows, this has an innocent joy, originality and bags of ideas – though for once he has bitten off more than he can chew

Alex Horne

Is Alex Horne a sadist? The nice man of comedy seems determined to make his job as hard as possible, leaning so heavily on technology and audience participation that it's a wonder the structure stays upright at all.

Luckily for you lot, Horne absorbs all the stress on your behalf. Like a father administering a swollen children's party, he's stopped having fun so that others can. As he says at the start, Seven Years in the Bathroom is "not really fun fun, more like hard work fun".

He's mainly wrong, as this show is hugely enjoyable, though it is certainly held back by its complexity. Horne and his helpers from the audience re-enact an average lifetime in one hour – 24 years of marriage becomes 18 minutes, seven years in the bathroom becomes five and a bit (if I've done my maths right). You get the idea.

Onstage are all the props he needs to complete his task, and on a projector the years tick relentlessly by – like real life, once that program has started, it can't be stopped. Horne's program also constantly interrupts him with commands to "be at work for 10 years" and so on. A few times a punchline is cut off at the crucial moment.

Each mini-task is subject to Horne's pithy understatement and overactive imagination: he gives us an idea of how to "shave on" 22 months to our lives by dressing more efficiently. In his passage about eating, he descends into a vortex of calculating what impact doing this show every day is having on his own life statistics. I particularly loved the surreal exercise tape he has spliced together from the usual "run, jog, star jump" commands. And there's some truly brilliant use of Google, too.

Horne is the king of the nice touch, and this show is full of them. This is his playground as much as his comedy show. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, but moments come and go. For once, it looks like Horne has bitten off more than he can chew as the constant interruptions mean no momentum can build. An ongoing story about his uncle is presumably meant to bind the show together, but instead it stutters frustratingly, despite having a nice conclusion.

Seven Years in the Bathroom is unique, and has the kind of innocent joy you always get with an Alex Horne show. It also has more ideas that most comics have in an entire career – something that both makes and breaks the show.

4 stars

Alex Horne: Seven Years in the Bathroom is on at 8.20pm at the Pleasance Dome.

What the punters say

Liz, Queensferry: 4/5. It was really good. This is the third time I've seen him, it was a similar sort of thing as you get from him and I dont' think it was quite as funny as last year.
Pete, Queensferry: 4.5/5. Very well organised, really good off-the-cuff lines and very tight.
Jo, Glasgow: 4/5. I love his stuff and I really enjoyed this, brilliant concept.

Review written by Paul Fleckney


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