Bratchy - 'Beer and Loathing and Lost Wages' - Edinburgh Fringe review

Laughing Horse@ The Counting House, Aug 4th - 28th, 6pm - I don't really want to slag off Bratchy for a number of reasons. Firstly he's free. Secondly he's an underdog, and everyone loves an underdog. And thirdly, I just can't be 100% sure he's not the kind of guy who would track me down and smash a glass Irn-Bru bottle over my head. 

I suppose these are all factors that contribute to the general feeling that you really want to like Bratchy. But in places he really doesn't make it easy.

The first thing you notice about Glaswegian Bratchy is that he has a slight drugginess about him. Later in the show he is quite honest about being an "ex-party monster", but it's really an unnecessary admission as it is immediately apparent as soon as he steps on stage. To be honest, I quite like the Trainspotting-esque edginess of his character. However, I am in a fairly unusual position of being in the middle of a transition back into life in this country after a few years living overseas. Because of that, I am enjoying immersing myself again into the wonder of our Scottish anomalies and I would imagine feeling an instant kinship to a scruffy man with a druggie edginess to his character would be one of these anomalies.

I am also aware that it is unlikely that many people who go to see Bratchy will be in the middle of a similar reconnection to their homeland and it is even less likely that they will even be from Scotland at all. So it may be worth considering that, although this review isn't great, I probably still like him more than most people do.

Bratchy awkwardly shuffles around the stage, rubbing his hair, beginning each sentence with "man" and ending it with an uncomfortable laugh. Again, personally, I quite enjoy this as it's all part of his character. However, his gags are just not funny enough to get the audience onside to a level where they will either understand this character or overlook it. Before winning anyone over, Bratchy dives straight into dangerous territory with a few celebrity death gags starring Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze and Jade Goody. The silence in the room deepens, adding another layer of uncomfortable edginess to proceedings as audience members shuffle uneasily on their small wooden chairs. My enjoyment, of course, increases.

After a few cheesy groaners, a fight story and a very awkward situation where he literally almost started on an audience member for whispering, it appeared Bratchy really had lost any sort of connection with his crowd. Except me obviously. It did get a little worse before it got better, with the horrifying decision that a good way to relax the audience after the tension of the potential live fight was to talk about pornography then wander into the realms of teenage cancer. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't. 

Just when the atmosphere reached that knife-edge point where nobody is quite sure if the guy next to them will just crack up and start flinging chairs around, Bratchy at last seemed to catch on that things weren't looking too bonny. He takes a breath, pulls it back a notch and just simplifies the act a little by chatting to the audience. And suddenly we're safe again. He should have probably just done this from the start, as it is in the area of simple banter that guys like Bratchy excel.

Towards the end of the show, things take an unexpected turn, with a skit involving a live ventriloquist dummy. This was very odd, but actually quite bizarrely and uncomfortably funny. The 'dummy', a.k.a. Bratchy's brother, 'The Wee Man' of YouTube fame, is suitably vile, rude, repulsive and quite clever in places. Unfortunately, he does sometimes seem to forget he is supposed to be a dummy. Like a lot of things in this show, it was funny in parts and could have really been something good, but somehow the mix wasn't quite right and overall it just ended up feeling a little weird.

There are a few problems and factual errors throughout the show that could be quite easily ironed out to take away that obvious free comedy feel. However, the problem with Bratchy really seems to be an underlying awkwardness that runs through everything he touches. If you really enjoy horrendously uncomfortable situations then you'll really like this show. If you're currently trying to lather yourself in all that is Scottish - and I'm not talking about haggis and tartan - then you're likely to enjoy it, just for the banter. And if you don't really know what that means, then don't bother. Despite himself, Bratchy seems an appealing guy who definitely has the potential to do something really funny. But probably not this year.

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