Edinburgh Festival review – Tom Bell

Like eating only meringue for a day

Tom_Bell3You’d normally see indie rake Tom Bell in Edinburgh with his more conservative sketch partner Ed Weeks. This year he strikes out alone in a hit-and-miss but entertaining show.

In Tom Bell Begins, he is ‘rebooting’ his life with some spoof Hollywood glamour, in response to his impending 30th birthday. The boy who grew up in Kegworth, Notts, two villages away from the potentially more heroic Gotham, wants to force fate’s hand.

For such a strong premise, it’s a show that feels surprisingly aimless, and it’s easy to forget that we’re supposed to be witnessing a life reboot, whether it’s done ironically or not. That doesn’t particularly bother me as Bell is a comic who will never be short of nice ideas, the problem is more that it feels a bit bitty.

There’s a fair amount on how his life has panned out so far, which some lovely sections on his Norwegian advert appearance, and his time writing for a local magazine, introducing us to the pleasingly named Gary Grump and Rose Tidy (“real names, real lives” says Bell). His thoughts about folding food and an online gym are fleeting joys as well.

It’s a surreal patchwork of a show, including a game of Grandmother’s Footsteps, an attempt to get a new identity, a very quick song, a celebration of Love It! magazine and some YouTube cat action – who doesn’t like YouTube cat action? All of which is fun but it doesn’t really add up to a coherent show. He is also hindered by having to abort a few videos he has prepared due to time constraints. His big Hollywood finish – where he gets ‘the girl’ (Jennifer Aniston) by saving her from a fire – suffers as a result and it doesn’t feel like much of a climax.

Bell is a charming rather than an assertive comic, and he’s a fantastic MC despite being more beta than alpha, but I’d equate this hour with eating only meringue for a day – tasty, but it leaves you craving something with a bit of substance.

Three stars

Tom Bell Begins is on at 3.40pm at the Tron.

What the punters say

Michael, Glasgow: 2.5/5. “It was alright, not as funny as I was expecting.”
David, Berwick: 2.5/5. “It was a good concept and quite a good show but not really laugh out loud funny.”
Review written by Paul Fleckney

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