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Vladimir McTavish and Keir McAllister – Edinburgh Festival review

Saturday, August 11 2012

A good show in need of bums on seats, writes Pete Kelly of Vladimir McTavish and Keir McAllister's hour on Scottish independence

Vladimir McTavish and Keir McAllister

Vladimir McTavish and Keir McAllister are a double act so Scottish even their names sound like an ice cube being swished around a shallow glass of single malt. This show, in theory at least, is based upon the urgent issue of Scottish independence: they claim it’s the only show on the Fringe to broach the subject and I’m happy to take their word for it. When I saw the show, in the first week of its run, they were hampered by an unjustly small audience. Just six people in total – five Scots and me. A small sample size admittedly, but there’s no shame in reversing the usual national ratio one finds in Fringe audiences.

It’s a measure of their easy chemistry on stage that such a turn-out never really felt awkward. At first they seem an unlikely pair: McTavish has spiky grey hair, a deeply lined face and twitchy air of barely suppressed rage; while the younger, slightly more dapper McAllister has a good line in pithy turns of phrase and comes over like a slightly naughty Six Music presenter, or a house-trained Frankie Boyle. The contrast is no bad thing in a double-act and they spark well off each other, happy to go off on tangents and save one another from punchlines that fall flat.

The hit-rate of jokes is pretty high, although a few require local knowledge of Scottish towns or politics. Perhaps this would change if they’d had a more diverse crowd. The more accessible material unfortunately too often slips into easy banter about Alec Salmond being fat or Susan Boyle being hairy. Given that they rail against the Scottish people's apathy towards "the most important question to face Scotland in 300 years" you'd have hoped they'd have enough to say without resorting to such easy jibes.

There is also a slightly uncomfortable finale where they show a film of a satirical song about no-one in Scotland giving a flying hoot about independence. The song is fine, but there is something uneasy about watching two men watching a TV screen: it’s a bit like being forced to watch a friend's YouTube channel. A live performance would no doubt be less easy on the ear, but would probably provide a more rousing end to the show.

Overall, McTavish and McAllister provide a funny hour filled with great and not-so-great jokes. They certainly deserve a bigger audience and I get the feeling their material would take off and perhaps get a little braver if confronted with a broader audience.

3 stars

• Vladimir McTavish and Keir McAllister at the Stand III/IV at 7pm

Review written by Pete Kelly


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