Review: Athena Kugblenu: Follow the Leader

comedy review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Athena Kugblenu
Published 10 Aug 2018

To risk stating the obvious, there's no shortage of things being talked about at the Fringe. It's a festival with issues coming out of its whazoo. It feels safe, then, to hold off talking about Athena Kugblenu's 'what', and focus on the 'how' for a bit.

Kugblenu is unfortunate in that today's crowd comprises only six. That's not a criticism in itself but, surely, the mark of a solid comic is to play to the crowd, to game the room, whether arena or parlour? But Kugblenu just doesn't, ploughing on regardless with the prepared bits of Follow the Leader even past the point where we all know that just isn't going to work. An obvious strategy would be to expand the audience participation bits and get to know everyone, to turn deathly silence into something more communal. Those gigs can be quite special. There's no sense that Kugblenu phones it in – she's a professional, and tries her best to sell the material. It's just the wrong product in the circumstances.

There's some nice material tucked away in here, about congestion charging for straight white men, or a set piece about a washing machine flooding that hints at her ability to build laughs from a rumble to a roar. But any of the insights about leadership that she's stiving for here get lost in an overwrought PowerPoint presentation that was never going to stick in a room of six and should have been thrown overboard to save the ship. Adopt; adapt; improvise. That's leadership, no?