Review: Ben Pope: Dancing Bear at Pleasance Courtyard

Ben Pope is a deeply uncynical man. Wearing pyjamas, he bounds in and high fives everyone, does some winning crowd work and tells us how gifted he is at sleeping. It’s kind of adorable, and the audience are completely on his side from the beginning.

He creates some great images; a long routine about a dead arm (Pope having expertly slept on it) disarming an alarm clock is described as a thunderbird doing surgery, amongst other hilarious things. Pope goes on to recount experiences in several jobs he’s had over the years, the first being as a charity fundraiser for the public school he attended; another, a ghost tour guide, he re-enacts with the help of audience members and gets huge laughs in the process.

He gets the whole audience involved at the end, in the ‘serious bit’ of the show, by which time he has created such a kind and cosy atmosphere that they are willing to reveal things about their finances most people would be afraid to, namely, how much debt they are in. The central idea of the show is the need to redefine our relationship with work and money in order to live fuller lives. The ending, calling back to crowd work stealthily laid down at the beginning, is slightly schmaltzy, but the Edinburgh crowd seemed very much in need of some schmaltz, perhaps as an antidote to the Fringe and to the general hostility of modern life. Thank you, dancing bear!

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