Doctor Brown, Underbelly, ****/ Tony Law, The Stand, ***


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The Independent Culture

There are no words. Literally. Edinburgh has witnessed a mime wave this year, with acts such as The Boy With Tape On His Face, Billy the Mime and Doctor Brown stealing punters away from the stand-up acts who are already experiencing a downturn.

Before last year, Doctor Brown shows have been more miss than hit and suffered from a rather gratuitous and coercive approach. Now, the Californian clown Phil Burgers, trained at Ecole Philippe Gaulier, is making the right moves.

‘Befrdfgth’ sees Brown play a kind of beast living in the curtains of the stage, unfurling himself, coyly and slowly at first, to toy with the audience, using the curtain as a billowing cloak.

Once fully on stage, the bushy-haired and bushy-bearded Brown, dressed like a kind of Oriental wizard all in black, and flexing his fingers as if to cast a spell, dips in to some short mimes, for example of a weightlifter who is apologetic after dropping his weights near the front row.

Longer set-pieces see a slave who manages to get a coin from a soldier, but is unable to stop dropping it; and there’s a bull fight, that sees bull and matador become one before splitting off into a story of love and abandonment.

As is customary the good Doctor requires our assistance for some of this storytelling and he’s not afraid to clamber over us to get it. His main ‘volunteer’ seems very willing, but, plant or not, the scenes involving him are choreographed for maximum effect. He has already manipulated us to supply sound effects for a bike ride, so by this point we will believe anything.

Another nominee on this year's Edinburgh Comedy Award shortlist, Canadian Tony Law has always asked his audiences for a little help too. This year his fantastical forays, ranging over Vikings, trolls and elephants, have more impact and discipline about them, in so far as they amount to something resembling a punchline.

Resemblance is all that matters in a set that defines Law’s style as a loopy parody of the art form. "Next time a witch offers to turn me into a dog” he observes “I'm gonna ask some questions first. Like a) ‘how long for?’ And b) ‘how many limbs do I get?’ I spent my twenties as a three-legged dog in Athens, during the boom times... That made no sense at all. But it's got a lovely rhythm to it."

What do you make of that? Woof? I thought so too.

Doctor Brown til 26th August, 0844 545 8252; Tony Law til 27th August, 0131 558 7272