I sometimes wonder what it is that draws reviewers to Edfringe Review: is it the dizzying, unwelcoming site navigation that makes you want to leave immediately, or is it the gaudy T-shirts that let everyone know there is a REVIEWER in the house? Or perhaps it’s their habit of reviewing everything twice to give a ‘balanced’ flavour, the way that Truman’s two atomic bombs prevented Hiroshima from feeling singled out.
There have been some apocalyptically dodgy wearers of the REVIEWER T-shirt in the past, but Tamsin Bracher isn’t one of them. She’s not the most fluid writer but on the whole she’s pretty good and has a very perspicacious eye for comedy double acts and comedy theatre. She can get a little over-analytical at times, telling us that Liverpool Revue are “topical without being overly-political and confident without being overly-affected” when we really just want to know if they’re funny.
There is a wee bit of conclusion-jumping too. When Stiff and Kitsch perform between cardboard cutouts of celebrities, Bracher doesn’t just tell us that it happens but explains what it signifies. It’s as if she’s writing the York Notes on the piece. This isn’t bad reviewing per se, just a little unusual. Bracher states that they “both satirise and celebrate their own normality, that hallmark of ordinariness and the mundane.” Hmm, thanks for explaining what ‘normal’ means, Tamsin. It’s a bit odd that she then goes on to state that the show “veer[s] dangerously close to the ordinary”, as if she hasn’t just explained this word along with all its synonyms.
More positively she does a lot of reading around the subject, looking at the performer’s pre-Fringe interviews. While reviewing Trump’d she gives a run-down of all the other performances that satirise the Orange One, which is genuinely helpful. She’s certainly taking it all very seriously, comedy theatre or not. I imagine her reviews take her hours to do; they’re written with diligence rather than confidence.
When Bracher puts herself into the review she tries not to obstruct and gives us reasonable caveats: “I was slightly nervous Trump’d! would simply regurgitate the mockery that proves the hallmark of his presidency thus far,” she confides. But then, in discussing Liverpool Revue, she states: “There followed, rather inevitably, multiple digs at Donald Trump, Brexit and the Scottish Referendum. But I would question whether these were necessary. Such issues have been completely overworked by comedians”. Bit of an odd take, perhaps, on a topical sketch revue. But fair enough.
In any case her conclusion (“the Revue told the chaotic story of student-life with electric verve”) is benign: Like a 1980s dot matrix printer Bracher eventually – slowly, a bit noisily – makes enough marks on the paper to form a cogent and legible tract. She tends to chew things over for far too long, but perhaps with this depth of analysis Edfringe Review could get by with just one hack per show. But then, this rather strange website is nothing if not a lanyard and T-shirt party for the youthful masses.