REVIEW – Dr Professor Neal Portenza Performs His Own Autopsy Live On Stage. One Night Only (Obviously)


By S Mulvihill

Though definitely lacking the blood one might be led to expect from a show title like this, it certainly doesn’t lack the guts. Dr Professor Neal Portenza is a comic act genuinely unlike any other you are likely to come across at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. An interactive show, this relies heavily on the attitude of the audience present and tonight the audience lived up to it’s end of the bargain admirably, delightedly contributing when necessary; more than happy to play along.

The start is ambiguous. There’s a heckler in the crowd called Stavos who leave the audience a little unsure of what’s going on. Luckily Dr Professor Neal Portenza knows how to handle him, and any other smart mouthed person present, just perfectly. There are scripted action and improvisation in perfect balance in this hour of madness which leaps from gymnastics to art to gladiators in a series of surreal and fantastical segments. Occasionally punctuated by music from the Spice Girls, and with brilliant use of blackouts, this original and hilarious act keeps it’s place in the show by asking the audience to grade the sections out of ten after each one. In another credit to the crowd, at one point the Dr Professor is awarded an aubergine out of ten, pulling the assembled mass together in mutual appreciation of the bizarre. Despite the appearance of chaos, this show is edged with a sharp wit and works primarily because Portenza’s audience trusts he is in absolute control at all times.

It’s not often that one will injure oneself while watching a comedy act, but tonight this reviewer was laughing so hard they banged their head off the seat in front. Apparently this is not the first casualty: rumour has it that one girl earlier in the run burst an ovarian cyst by laughing. If you are prepared to be an active member of an audience and engage with the show in front of you then this is an absolute must see. A front runner for the title of ‘Longest Show Name Edinburgh Fringe 2014’, the sheer exuberance, energy and power of the uncomfortable shifting of eyes make this performance a cult hit in the making.

Until 24th August, 18:20 (1hr), Just The Tonic @ The Mash House (Venue 288)

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