EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: DARIUS DAVIES: ROAD TO WRESTLEMANIA, Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters
Stemming from a childhood wish to emulate Hulk Hogan, comedian Darius Davies takes us on a journey into pursuing his dream of becoming a professional wrestler, and how it all went wrong.
You might need a few superkicks or uppercuts yourself to make it into the venue - an unsignposted room right at the back of the crowded Three Sisters. At this popular free venue, people seem to join queues randomly rather than due to keenness for a particular act, so Davies is faced with only a small proportion of his audience identifying as wrestling fans.
Nevertheless, he makes the show suitably accessible to anyone who has just wandered in, backing up his set with the aid of PowerPoint images and well-chosen video clips to illustrate his points, even to those who don't know their armbar from their elbow. There are occasional technical issues with these, but they are well integrated and certainly a benefit to the show.
A confident performer, Davies opens the show by channelling the great ring entrances of wrestling history in a budget style, resulting in an amusing look that is somewhere between Ric Flair and someone's mum. With classic theme music and neon signs handed out to the crowd, it gets the fans present onside immediately. He goes on to tell us of his initial fascination with wrestling despite criticism from his peers, his exploitation as an eager trainee desperate to break into the business, and his hospitalisation after a life-threatening injury in his first training match.
Some of his strongest material is where he tries to apply real world logic to the soapy storylines and characters of wrestling. Davies has a self-deprecating style throughout, particularly when he moves on to his video audition for WWE Tough Enough, a reality show looking to find the next John Cena or Brock Lesnar.
Adding authenticity to his tales, Davies plays for us the tape that he submitted as an 18-year-old wannabe, filmed in front of the very tough backdrop of the net curtains in a friend's spare room. Needless to say, Darius Davies never became a world heavyweight champion, but his failure is a rich seam of comedy, well mined here with a broad range of comedy to appeal to just about everyone.
In an unfortunate twist around the climax of his set, two audience members fainted in quick succession in the hot venue. Truly, Davies can now quite literally bill himself as a knockout sensation! Nevertheless, such unscripted drama led to probably my favourite line of the evening as Davies quickly lamented "how far people will go to avoid putting money in at the end of a free show!"
Despite dramatic unplanned incidents and occasional technical issues, there is a lot to enjoy here and plenty of value for a free show on the Fringe. Wrestling fans will lap it up, but even those uninitiated into the world of spandex and suplexes will find plenty to entertain them.
Darius Davies: Road To Wrestlemania runs until August 28 at 6.15pm