Billy the Mime, Just the Tonic at The Caves, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
If you believe there are some subjects that just shouldn’t be mimed – the HIV epidemic or paedophilia perhaps – then this isn’t the show for you.
For Billy the Mime nothing is sacred. It is a testament to the his masterful delivery that seeing such events as World War Two played out in mime isn’t merely farcical but deeply unsettling.
Billy’s unflinching, deadpan demeanour leaves audiences laughing nervously as he announces each scene with a handwritten card, saying ‘a day called 9/11’, ‘the priest and the altar boy’ or ‘the Michael Jackson Story’.
Having taken master classes with the world’s most famous mime, Marcel Marceau, and honed his circus skills with Hovey Burgess (who literally wrote the book on Circus Technique in 1976) at the Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey’s Clown College, Billy is no amateur.
His moves are sharp, slick and hugely expressive, communicating every emotion in an ear-to-ear grin or the raise of an eyebrow. Even his airplane impression, classic arms out style, sends a slight shiver through the audience as it ploughs into a skyscraper or drops its nuclear load on unsuspecting innocents below.
Some of the most enjoyable moments in the performance are those with the lightest touch - the lovable clown who falls for a beautiful girl, dances her through every musical genre, and knocks out all his teeth.
While there are plenty of laughs, Billy’s unforgiving and relentlessly dark performance is an uncomfortable experience. The show’s sinister edge means this is not a show you where you can expect to simply sit back and laugh.
Instead Billy is a mime determined to keep you on the edge of your seat, and he succeeds.
Billy the Mime is at Just the Tonic at The Caves, 6.15pm, until August 26, www.edfringe.comBy Mairi Gordon