Edinburgh Festival '99: Fringe Theatre - Ed Byrne: On the Road

Assembly Rooms, Venue 3, 10pm (0131-226 2428) to 16 Aug
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The Independent Culture
In the idealised world of Ed Byrne, Lauren Bacall would swear like a trooper, women would remember every wham, bang and "kerpow" of action movies, and the Promised Land would flow with beer and nicotine. We're talking lads' territory here, but Byrne is no belching muscle-head, and if that's what you're expecting, you'll be surprised by the slight figure on stage, dwarfed by his attitude and pinstriped suit, with hair flowing as abundantly as the beer and the jokes.

Edinburgh has happy memories for Byrne - his appearances at the 1998 Festival were sell-outs - and when he appears on stage, he is obviously still surfing the wave of his recent success. The attitude is not "I'm going to try and make you laugh", it's more "I know that I'm damned funny", and he allows the audience to bask in the warmth of his confidence, hitting them with observations about animal copulation, air-travel, and deformed superheroes.

Byrne's trick is that he sifts around the mire of the lager-layabout terrain and extracts comic gold. His reference points include crap movies, comic-books, and conversations with his girlfriend, but he brings original twists to each. The surprise element is rather like being taken down to your local and finding that Magnus Magnusson is hosting the pub quiz: suddenly an evening of slobbery becomes rather more challenging than anticipated. Such is Byrne's fluid and mischievous mode of delivery you do not realise this till afterwards: and for the time being, you just stand up and cheer with everybody else.