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Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Nick Hall: Spencer @ Underbelly

This one-man show features actor and comedian Nick Hall donning a grey wig and mock 18th-century garb to tell the story of the life and death of the largely forgotten Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister ever to be assassinated (in 1812, after just over two and a half years in office). Throughout the hour he takes on various historical personas, most prominently Spencer himself and his assassin, John Bellingham.

Kicking off the proceedings with a hilarious ultra-low budget trip back in time to our subject’s birth in 1762, Hall musters up an enjoyable mix of fast-paced storytelling, brazen caricatures and dad jokes. While it’s largely a rather Blackadder-ish historical spoof, it also throws in a few references to modern society and British politics - a nod to Brexit here, another to social media there. However, these latter interjections aren’t always successful and can feel somewhat awkwardly contrived. I enjoyed one particular moment, however, when he stops and admits that he’d made up some details about Spencer’s rise to fame because politics “is all about storytelling” rather than reality.

Another issue is that a later section going through John Bellingham’s life story isn’t as much fun as the parts focussing on Spencer. While it’s fascinating to learn the background circumstances which led to him taking the latter’s life, there’s little of the lively humour which is present in spades elsewhere.

All in all, this is a slightly more uneven show than I would have hoped, but still enough fun to warrant a passing grade. Hall is clearly revelling in this opportunity to dress up in a joke shop historical costume and, more to the point, he’s pleasingly eccentric enough for the audience to want to follow suit.

Watch a video:

Rating: ☆☆☆

Tickets are available from the following link:

Edinburgh Fringe 2018 logo

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MUSIC

Pussy Riot band

THEATRE

Prehistoric at Summerhall