Edinburgh Fringe Review: Steen Raskopoulos, Underbelly

In recent years audience participation shows seem to have grown in popularity, with the likes of Adam Riches and Dr Brown having award-winning hits with gigs where the ticketholder becomes co-star. This year’s big new immersive success could come from Australian comic Steen Raskopoulos.

At the outset the crowd is warned that there is going to be improvised character comedy audience participation, but don’t worry, it comes from a place of love. That’s all well and good, but what if you don’t want to be involved? Can you stay glued to your seat? Or have a refund? Adam Riches had just that problem earlier this week. 

On the night I was in Raskopoulos had a doozy. The people he selected were up for it without ever being show-offs. In fact the guy plucked out from my row, who I thought was going to be reticent, turned out to be a master of interpretative dance. 

Of course part of the skill is picking the right people and then nudging them in the right direction. In a series of sketches which initially appear self-contained but gradually weave together into one whole narrative, the sinewy, energetic Raskopoulos skilfully guided his volunteers/victims to emerge from their shells so gradually they may not have even realised what they were doing. 

While Raskopoulos performs and shapes the whole thing, multiple supporting characters come to life thanks to the members of public. There's the Craig David-crooning driver, the Bond-villainesque Soviet chess grandmaster, the naughty guy in the office and a few more surprises. There is the mandatory “get a stranger to kiss you” bit but even that was done with a twist. 

To say more would spoil the fun but here's a warning. Don't think you are safe sitting in the middle of a row. I was in an aisle seat and at one point Raskopoulos climbed over me to yank someone else up onstage. I felt I dodged a bullet there, although the guy that was chosen brought the house down.

I expect it doesn’t work as well as this every time - we were told it was the best night yet, though he may say this to everyone. But it is a testament to the star’s skill that he can make improvised scenes with amateurs run so seamlessly at all. This could be a real contender for a lastminute.com Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination at the end of the Fringe. But if it does win a prize maybe the money should be shared with the co-stars. 

Steen Raskopoulos – The Coolest Kid in Competitive Chess, Underbelly until August 27. Tickets here.


Hello! Thanks for reading all the way down. I wish I could give you a prize. But BTJ needs your support to continue - if you would like to help to keep the site going, please consider donating.

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.