Billy the Mime
Surprisingly tender silent comedy show from the boundary-pushing Aristocrat
This article is from 2012.
Billy the Mime came to Edinburgh with a reputation for smashing barriers of taste with his clever silent work on the likes of The Aristocrats movie. The reputation he may well leave with is as an accomplished artist fully on the side of the vulnerable and vanquished.
When a Fringe comic generally brings up the subject of Michael Jackson, the cruel ‘wacko Jacko’ gags tend to flow thick and fast. In Billy’s hands, the late superstar is a tragic figure betrayed and destroyed by those he had come to rely upon, whether his father, his doctor or the plastic surgeons who ignored the evidence in front of them and continued to cut away at his hollowed-out face. Diana Spencer, abused altar boys, AIDS sufferers and World Trade Centre office workers all have their stories told, and collectively are seen as being cut down by disreputable bullies and heartless patriarchs.
Due to his wordless world, Billy occasionally has to resort to brief symbols that feel a little empty (all people who chew gum are baddies) but the moments when he lifts his art to deeply affecting levels outweigh any small reservations. Mr Mime comes on with large sheets of paper upon which are written the title of the piece he’s about to perform, and wanders away briefly to prepare, leaving the audience to conjure up the images that will be in front of us shortly. Few sequences pass by without an element of surprise and at least one arresting moment that should stay with you for a while.
A title such as ‘Whitney Houston’s Last Bath’ should be met with pained anticipation, but his moving tribute won’t fail to warm her fans. Billy the Mime may not be the cutting edge satirist some thought he was, but more importantly, he will carve new dimensions into the most cynical part of your soul.
The Caves, 556 5375, until 23 Aug (not 14, 17--19), 6.15pm, £6--£8.