Edinburgh Fringe Review: Chris McGlade, Just The Tonic @ The Caves

I get the impression that Chris McGlade is always an in-your-face comedian, but never more so than at this performance. Despite playing one of the major Just The Tonic venues there were only two people in the audience the night I was in, so I got something of a personal performance, with McGlade pouring himself a mug of tea and doing his material right in front of me. Apologies if this is not the most detailed review. It is difficult to take notes when someone has turned the volume up to eleven and is about two feet from your notepad.

McGlade certainly has plenty to say. He comes from a working class family in Middlesbrough and, now in his early fifties, has previously played the working men's club circuit. But he is a political comedian and wants to create "ripples of thought" so has decided to do this by attempting to break into the liberal-elite infested Edinburgh Fringe.

He makes it clear at the start that he doesn't like what the Fringe represents. He hates the flyers peppered with the five star genius bullshit. He may have used the phrase "corporate wankfest" at some point. He has certainly created a challenge for himself - to somehow be part of it yet apart from it. He won't do any flyering himself – though he pays a team above minimum wage – but with his obvious passion if he pounded the pavements he might get more people in.

The show is at its most compelling when he gets onto politics, both local and global. He almost explodes with a mix of pride and pain as he describes his hometown of Middlesbrough, once a northern powerhouse dubbed Infant Hercules (the title of McGlade's show) but now in economic decline.

One tirade is against overweight people eating junk food and not exercising. The lean comic was once obese himself so feels he has a right to say it's all about self-control - if he published a diet book it would be a short one. Get off your arse and stop eating shit. 

As for the rest of the world, he blames the liberals for creating an environment where Donald Trump could be elected and points out that Obama bombed plenty of Muslims during his time in the White House.

This might not sound particularly like stand-up comedy, but there are jokes here too. And there is an engaging twinkle in his eye as well as the occasional tear. McGlade is not afraid to use the 'P' word that triggered a Guardian comment piece when Daniel Kitson used it and is smart enough to explain the context to justify it. He cut his teeth in the toughest of clubs so can certainly deliver an old school punchline. 

Add in some personal poetry about his grandchildren and you've got an intense, unique show unlike anything else you'll see on the Fringe. I don't agree with everything McGlade says and some others on the Fringe such as Darren Harriott do cover some similar ground, but I'm glad he is saying most of it and he definitely deserves a bigger audience. My biggest criticism? If only he'd offered me a mug of tea he might have got another star.

Chris McGlade: Infant Hercules is at Just The Tonic @ The Caves until Aug 28. Tickets here.


Read more Edinburgh reviews here.

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