Review: Markus Birdman – Love, Life and Death – The Stand (2), Edinburgh.
Fiery raconteur Markus Birdman returns to Edinburgh this year with a personal show about his recent run in with death. Taking a tattoo he got to celebrate his 42nd birthday – of a Mexican Day of The Dead skull – as his starting point, he begins to explain how he suffered a stroke last year and the effect it has had on his view of life, death, fate, his atheist beliefs and things left on the floor – the stroke saw him lose the bottom quarter of his vision.
The first half of this show is a rapid jaunt through Birdman’s condition and how it affected him on a practical level; from how he was eventually diagnosed after a series of lengthy and intrusive procedures, to the perils of being partially blind and all of a sudden highly clumsy. A spell in a stroke unit surrounded by people twice his age saw him draw inspiration from the people he shared his recovery with and their sage views on love, life and death.
Birdman is an engaging speaker and his tales are littered with quips and gags- some very clever, some slightly more base – that elevate his routines out of ‘mildly interesting’ and well into funny. The show’s material might sound weighty but there’s more than enough folly worked into proceedings to ensure laughs are forthcoming.
The second half of the show saw Birdman offering six tips for life in light of his brush with death and subsequent musings. Noted behind him on a huge hand drawn backdrop, these are all fairly cliché, but difficult to disagree with, sentiments such as ‘fall in love’ and ‘enjoy the small things in life’. This section is much lighter on laughs, but high on feel good factor as the comic’s delivery of his happy ending story warms the hearts of the punters in the intimate Stand 2. Highlights of this second section include a material on Bridman’s forte, religion, as he, the son of a priest, rips into some cracking observations that, despite the wealth of atheist comics around, feel pretty original and smart. As with any comic with a particularly strong disposition on a topic such as religion, there are moments when, despite his best efforts, Birdman sounds slightly preachy; but in general he manages to laugh at the subject without his views becoming overbearing.
Unsurprisingly, given the personal nature of the topic, this is an earnest hour that delivers some good laughs, provokes the odd thought and finishes with an uplifting tone. The change in pace during the second half means this isn’t a show for those looking for wall to wall gags, but provides good value for anyone looking for a show with a unique subject matter. Despite its interesting inspiration, the show doesn’t break too many boundaries in terms of comic material, but what there is, is well written and engagingly performed.
Date of live review: Sunday 19th August 2012.