Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The Ballroom at Assembly Rooms
★★★★★ (out of five)
“BLUE sky thinking from a grey sky country.”
That’s Andrew Maxwell’s mocking assessment of the hullabaloo around Scottish Independence, made early in the Dublin comic’s set.
It’s his 20th year at the Edinburgh Fringe. For the past eight, Maxwell has enjoyed totally sold-out runs. On tonight’s evidence, it’s easy to see how.
Two decades have passed, but you couldn’t accuse the comic of resting on his laurels.
Maxwell’s hour-long set is filled with bold observations about the referendum - the silly as well as the profound.
It’s brave given that independence can be a touchy subject for the Scots.
Arguably more so when delivered by a non-Scot to a lager-charged audience, like tonight, late on a Friday night at a packed Assembly Rooms.
An early crowd heckle of “you bastard” lends weight to this theory.
It won’t knock the comedian off his stride though.
On his recent tour, London Loves, Maxwell showed he was equally comfortable taking the piss out of the hipsters and geezers who seem to populate swathes of the English capital.
In Hubble Bubble, the politically-engaged comic continues to deliver a withering assessment of many angles of Scotland’s big question.
From the absurd - the notion that Robert the Bruce would be ineligible to vote given his French links - to the potential impact on the North of Ireland.
These sit alongside up-to-date material about last week’s debate that couldn’t have featured in his opening shows.
Maxwell also has the balls to rib one of the nation’s favourite sons.
Billy Connolly, albeit via a backhanded compliment, is brought to task for re-hashing tales from his shipyard days even though most of his pals are now more Hollywood than Holyrood.
The hour-long show isn’t frenetically paced, yet it refuses to lull as Maxwell dead-pans that Usain Bolt had “better be the fastest man on the planet” after his alleged comments about the Commonwealth Games upset some in Glasgow.
Such current topics are interspersed with scattershot riffs on Ukip, heroin, snowboarding and the need to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol - the last delivered, again bravely, without a punchline.
After a flawless 60 minutes, satisfied punters sway outside the Assembly Rooms as they spill on to George Street.
Meanwhile this reviewer was left wondering what more Maxwell has to do to be considered among the Champions League of Irish comedy names like Moran, O’Hanlon et al.
Andrew Maxwell plays The Ballroom at Assembly Rooms at 10.20pm, until Tuesday, August 12.