Edinburgh Festival '98: Comedy - Magical realist delivers a sentimental education

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The Independent Culture
IT'S NOT often that the words wistful, intelligent, fantastical (and especially not charming) could be applied to a comedian plying their trade on the Fringe. More often than not, your chosen comic will spin a whole hour out of a couple of stunts, shouting very LOUD and, the most reliable fall-back position, treating the audience to a few variations on a knob gag.

Not Ben Moor. His new monologue, My Last Week With Modolia, is a gentle tale of boy meets girl. Admittedly, it's not every day that a cynical, twentysomething junior plastic surgeon falls in love with an 88-year-old woman his "anti-Lolita").

Or that both of them have the gift of being able to see imps, those connoisseurs of mischief, invisible to all but a handful of daydreamers ("It probably mad us equally mad. But it made us equally special"). But it's exactly that pleasure in the telling of fables, a magic realist's delight in the bizarre coupled with a host of garlicky puns, curlicues and tangents that entices and enthralls the audience.

It's refreshing that a comedian has the audacity to produce a show that is unashamedly sentimental, never resorts to shock tactics but instead relies on the craft of the writing and Moor's etiolated and expressive physique.

"Be a fly. Be very a fly," Modolia tells Moor's character. "I've never quite known what that meant," he replies. "She was very old, you see." That's the telling sentiment: we spend an hour in Moor's company with a mix of bemusement and awe, complicit in the tale, drawn in, without ever losing sight of its beautiful and strange otherworldliness.

It remains to be seen whether the Perrier judges will be as daring in their choice of best act, as Ben Moor has been in trading stand-up for something far more poetic and ungraspable. If their decision last year to pass over the comic genius of the Right Size's Come Here Often (because it didn't conform to their narrowly defined idea of comedy) is anything to go by, the chances are that they won't. But it would be their loss. Don't miss out on the chance to be with the fairies in this boundary-subverting performance from a truly gifted storyteller.

Continues until 31 August (0131 556 6550)