4 – 29 Aug 1745 (1845) @ Pleasance Beneath
Devised and played by Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, Ronna and Beverly are fifty-something chat show hosts, and they have a new book to plug. They are here in Edinburgh on a ‘working vacation’, drumming up interest in their self-help tract “You’ll Do a Little Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage & Remarriage for Jewish Singles.”
To achieve this, they coax two different Fringe stars onto the stage (floor) of the tiny Pleasance Beneath room, and quiz them about their love life. I must qualify this review with a caveat: the guests on this show, and the way in which Ronna and Beverly dealt with them, pushed it to three – occasionally four – star status. Without them, or with other guests, it could easily have stuck on two. There’s no way of knowing what you’re going to get, but the experience I had in that room was so comically surreal I’d advise you to chance it.
After an occasionally funny spiel about their relationship – close but not like that – and background, they welcomed a very apprehensive-looking Sarah Pascoe to join them. And apprehensive she should have been, as two bewigged yentas prowled around her, grilling her on her ‘complicated’ relationship, demanding when she was going to begin procreating and finally roundly advising her to dump her man and find one with more balls.
This, however, was nothing to what was to come. A brief interlude passed in which Beverly subjected a cringing teenage boy to several minutes of sex-centred conversation before their next victim was brought to the chair. We were not expecting Alex Zane, in habitually tight trousers. We were very much not expecting him to then admit that he and his girlfriend are going through a ‘bad patch’ as she likes sex and he doesn’t – with her or anyone. Without mercy, Ronna and Beverly probed, questioned and analysed this shock-haired Channel 4 presenter into one uncomfortable admission after another, until he crumbled with a heartfelt ‘My God, this is so not what I wanted to be talking about this afternoon!’. So intimate were these revelations that no-one was quite sure whether they were all just very natural actors, and the whole thing was being made up – we just weren’t sure why Zane would agree to convince a roomful of strangers he dreams of a sex-free relationship, to the extent that he watches Starship Troopers until his poor girlfriend gets tired of acting alluring and falls asleep.
So, in the small, not-quite-full studio of a fake book-tour, I had my most surreal Fringe experience yet, watching Alex Zane helplessly talking in great detail about a problem he admits he can’t even talk about with his girlfriend. Without their guests, this is quite funny, sometimes odd, often saucy and occasionally awkward sketch material. With them, you might experience one of those gold-dust ‘is this really happening?’ moments, complete with post-show speechless bewilderment. And that’s what the Edinburgh Fringe does best.