Edinburgh Fringe Review: Celya AB, Swimming, Pleasance Courtyard

Edinburgh Fringe Review: Celya AB, Swimming, Pleasance Courtyard

The 2022 Fringe will go down as a notable Fringe for all sorts of reasons. One of them may well be that it marked the arrival of a brand new wave of confident, assured comedians, comfortable in their own skin. From Sikisa to Lily Phillips, from Lara Ricote to Ania Magliano to sketch duo Shelf and beyond, new comics have been making a big splash this year.

And another making a splash is Celya AB, with her aptly titled debut full length set, Swimming. AB certainly has a unique selling point. As she explains at the start of her gently engaging show, she moved from France to Birmingham in 2015 on purpose. Yes, that's right, on purpose.

Needless to say, she is very good at charting the culture clash and the shock of the Midlands. She jokes that suddenly, for example, she was being told that she had been pronouncing her own name wrong all these years. How kind of the English to point that out.

She could probably get a lot more comic mileage merely out of this unlikely relocation. In fact I'd like to know more about the reasons behind it. But she moves gently through other subjects too, from her sexuality to colonialism to her family background – she is French-Algerian and paints a vivid, affectionate picture of her upbringing.

This does, however, feel very much like an introductory show from a very talented, charismatic performer that sets out a stall without quite going far enough. The upfront PR was that it was about her finding her place in the world and learning to swim as an adult and actually the latter only really features towards the end.

Though maybe, of course, swimming is meant more as a metaphor for getting through the choppy waters of settling into a new country. A distinctive debut, hopefully the next show will be more of a deep dive into AB.

Celya AB, Swimming, Pleasance Courtyard. Until Aug 28. Buy tickets here.

three stars


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