by Bryony Rae Taylor
A Faustian farce, Get Fit With Bruce Willis stars Chris Brannick as Mike, an ageing Jimmy Somerville impersonator, on a quest to find fame and fortune. His wife (Karen Kirkup) is looking outside of their marriage for lust and excitement. After figuring out he’s more Harry Hill than Jimmy Somerville in the looks department, he decides to re-brand himself somewhere in the middle – as Bruce Willis.
It’s an out-and-out comedy, and some of puns are laugh-out-loud funny, but they’re quite quick-fire so sometimes the misses outweigh the hits. Kirkup embodies a plethora of characters with distinction; particularly brilliant is her impersonation of the devil in the form of a Yorkshire grandma who convinces Mike to sell his soul.
The message at the heart of the play looks at masculinity and how the quest for happiness is a tricky one. However, the stereotypes the show reinforces along the way negate this message entirely. The twisty and convoluted plot makes it tricky to follow.
The tone and content of the show often teeter on the edge of offensive, occasionally tipping into WTF territory. It’s a little like a 1980s sex farce, but one of the fundamentals of that genre was a stereotypical approach to characters which just doesn’t translate well into the social landscape of 2020. Its clear that the show is erring on the side of the darkest comedy, à la noughties sit-com Nighty Night, but the butt of the jokes are too obvious, and archaic, to successfully sit in that category. Some quite fatphobic jokes don’t land, and there’s a bit about ‘chubby women’ at Weight Watchers jumping at the chance to pick a Jaffa Cake off the floor, which takes my breath away. There’s also an ‘up-the-bum’ joke in relation to gay people. It’s mean-spirited and not a clever approach to creating dark comedy.
Get Fit With Bruce Willis ran at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 and can be watched here.
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