Tom Lenk is Trash, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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by Meredith Jones Russell

Tom Lenk is Trash is trash.

That’s not even a cruel review, it’s literally what he told me to say. And after seeing the show, I am not going to be so stupid as to say anything he doesn’t want me to.

One section of this otherwise deliberately meandering, unplotted show, you see, is to take down one reviewer’s opinion of it as ‘an under-rehearsed mess of contradictions.’ That’s the point, says Lenk, so reviewers in future should simply describe the show as trash, which is what it is. And he has a point – the show is almost uncriticisable on that front, as it sets itself up to be a mess from the outset.

Loosely based on his Instagram account, which at last count boasted around 440,000 followers for his ‘Lenk lewk for less’ redesigning of red carpet looks out of household rubbish, the show is part stand-up, part memoir, part arts and craft workshop, part rant. In no particular order. On a stage covered in rubbish, Lenk tells us a bit about his career as an actor, from the toe-curling awfulness of Hollywood auditions to bad lighting in major TV series, and runs a couple of audience interactions.

It’s very funny, and Lenk is an engaging host. In fact, he’s funniest on the fly, which makes it a shame when he uses a comedian whose show shares the same venue as Lenk’s for a moment of audience participation. The comedian has seen the show before anyway, and you feel a real-life audience member would have been funnier, and brought out a funnier side of Lenk, too. Indeed, the best moments are the most unplanned – when the PowerPoint presentation lags, for example, and Lenk faux-berates his tech team. The rest is largely lightweight, inconsequential musings, but admittedly no less fun for that.

It’s a clever if safe idea, then, to bill your show as completely unplanned and deliberately shoddy. You can’t lose, really, and it does suit Lenk’s sharp, camp, catty humour, which is most effective when it spontaneously penetrates through the surrounding chaos. It does seem harsh, therefore, to criticise Lenk for under-rehearsing and making a mess. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Tom Lenk is Trash runs through 25 August in Edinburgh.

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