The Wrestling (5 stars)

This article is from 2011

The Wrestling

Anarchic night of body-slamming action and comedy

Max Olesker is some sort of twisted genius. The former wrestler (under the nom de guerre Max Voltage) and one half of sketch duo Max and Ivan has combined two of his talents to create one of the best events on the Fringe. Not that his cohort Ivan Gonzalez is happy about it – fed up of playing second fiddle, he attacks Olesker with a folding chair after the first fight, setting up the time-honoured tradition of a no-rules grudge match between the good guys and the heels.

The goodies are led by Russell Kane (spitting fire and brimstone as an evangelical preacher), and include Colin Hoult (The Mighty Thwor, God of Thwunder) and Patrick ‘The Cuddler’ Monahan as well as real wrestlers Mark Haskins and Pac. The baddies, headed by Adam Riches and Jess Ransom’s sinister Russian alteregos, are seriously bad, with genuinely scary muscle mountain Johnny Moss backed up by music Nazi The Vinyl Solution (The Penny Dreadfuls' Humphrey Ker) and a gimp-suited Tom ‘Explosenthal’ Rosenthal. While each team gets some time to clown around on the way to the stage – Abandoman's Rob Broderick makes a guest rapping appearance, hyping up the crowd for the good guys, while Monahan fosters his own feud with Moss by constantly running away – the time spent in the ring is dedicated to pulling off actual wrestling moves. Suplexes, dropkicks and clotheslines all draw wincing ‘oohs’ from the audience, landing with satisfying thuds on (and occasionally off) the canvas. Of course, it’s all very phoney (although Olesker himself does hobble away from the evening with a fractured ankle), but as ringmaster Nick Helm admits, it’s chaotically under-rehearsed, and the whiff of accompanying danger is exciting enough.

The whole package is tied together by a fantastic floor team: Helm is belligerent and sweary as always; Pappy’s Matthew ‘The Pacifist’ Crosby is brilliantly insulting to all the guests he encounters as a roving reporter; and Brendon Burns and Andrew Maxwell bicker and commentate with obvious bias for the opposing sides (baddies and goodies respectively). Maxwell in particular shines, inciting several unthreatening chants (‘Fair play! Decency! Fair play! Decency!’) and summing up the evening with sportsmanlike vigour (‘The real winner tonight was wrestling’).

If Olesker can bear to put himself through the pain of it again, it’s sure to be a sell-out show at the next Fringe. What with the Olympics taking place down the road, who knows what other talent he might be able to rope in?


The Wrestling

  • 5 stars

World-class wrestlers meet world-class comedians in a late night, heart-pounding, edge-of-your seat spectacular. For one night only the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will be turned upside-down, as punch-lines meet clotheslines in an epic and extraordinary battle of Good versus Evil. Rules will be broken. Blood may be spilt.

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