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Max and Ivan at the Fringe review: ‘Laugh-out-loud hilarious from start to finish’

Max and Ivan’s Edinburgh Fringe show is laugh-out-loud hilarious from start to finish. The pair have fantastic chemistry, skilfully embodying a whole cast of wonderful larger than life characters, from obnoxious Swedish boyfriend peddling (literally) fishy alcohol, to the protagonist’s jaded best friend. These at times clunky transitions between characters are used to excellent comic effect, such as when an actor’s movement continues on from one character to the next. During a proposal scene, where both partners are played by the same actor, the boyfriend asks his girlfriend to stop talking, as she’s making things difficult to stage.

The show follows Brian, a sweet but challenged character who is allergic to pretty much everything, as he navigates a school reunion, also dipping into the stories of others at the event. These stories combine and intertwine hilariously, and often disastrously.

I found particularly tickling the way in which the same anecdotes were repeated from different people’s perspectives. Brian, hoping to infuse a gig with excitement, once set free a lion at a house party, and other characters reminisce about how when they lost their virginity together a lion bounded through the bedroom. One character declares that ‘playing the French horn is like making love to a beautiful woman – it’s much more fun if you have a butt plug in,’ and another character later mentions, disturbed, that this boy is teaching her the French horn.

My favourite scene depicts the meeting of a Geography teacher and past mature student, who had previously had an affair. The pair’s flirtation through Geography facts and innuendo is rib-achingly funny, the scene charged with utterly ridiculous sexual tension.

This ability to create scenes and characters imbued with just the right degree of silliness is perhaps Max and Ivan’s greatest strength. Another fantastic example of this is a fight that takes place in the school’s music room, during which the opponents combine musically punning insults with physical blows by the corresponding instruments.

A recurring joke which I personally found more distressing than funny involved a past student whom nobody remembered. While this premise could have worked well, the joke is taken in uncharacteristically dark directions, with the threat of suicide building, and finally only just being avoided. The stories of the people who had forgotten him are also rather harrowing at times: one bully had forced him to jump off the science block several times, and his legs were still badly damaged to this day.

On the whole, though, the show was extremely funny and entertaining, with no moment wasted.

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