Edinburgh Fringe Review: Al Porter, Underbelly Med Quad

In the past three years Al Porter has progressed from playing a tiny room at the Gilded Balloon to a giant barn at the Underbelly.

As we come into the room a toga clad keyboard player and two backing singers are singing on a purple lit stage decorated with giant pillars and a classical bust.
Porter comes in from behind - which is the way he likes it, he tells us. I hesitate to give away a joke but there is at least twenty minutes of this sort of innuendo at the top of the show.
He runs into the theatre throwing out cheeky remarks to members of the audience but scampering off before anyone can reply. He’s dressed, as is his wont, in a sharp telly style suit, his hair slicked back on his head in a way that makes him seem older than his 23 years.
There’s a vinyl chair on the centre of the stage in a deliberate reference to the great Irish storyteller, comic and entertainer Dave Allen. Porter tells us he wants to be like the great entertainers he used to watch with his granny in his council house.
But what is weird about all this presentation is it is all to do with television and nothing to do with live comedy. What’s more, while entertainers like Frankie Howerd clothed all their anecdotes in nudge nudge wink wink innuendo Porter is quite happy to be graphic about his sexual preferences.
Porter, who is now on the telly in Ireland (he is the host of the Irish reboot of Blind Date) makes the mistake of beginning the show with some ‘my showbiz life’ stories about meeting Graham Norton and Roger Moore.
He finally gets into his stride when he tells the story of discovering the gay scene in Dubai. Tales about getting mugged on an Irish council estate and about taking part in a gay wrestling contest are also on the money.
And there is a great moment when two worlds collide and his mother gets flustered showing a television crew around their council house. Porter drops in that he now has a boyfriend and that he suffered from depression but these bits of personal information are whizzed over without much reflection.
There’s no doubt Porter is a tremendous talent. He can also sing beautifully. And perhaps there is an appetite for a return to big shiny seventies style variety shows. He could easily be a television host, a game show host, a chat show host and a big big star .  He’s already halfway there.
But there’s something wonderful about the way Porter tells a simple story that suggests he could also be a great stand up. That is something I would really like to see.

Al Porter in Campus Maximus is at the Underbelly Med Quad until August 27. Tickets here.



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