Park Theatre



“It is not often you want to give a performer a hug after a show, and I have to hold myself back when I see him in the lobby afterwards”

It is hard to categorise Ivo Graham’s new show. It is billed ambiguously as a “soundtracked story of a life”, and within the opening bars of Bonobo’s Migration it becomes clear that this is not a straightforward comedy hour.

The single microphone Graham stands by for the opening piece is lit by a soft spotlight, and to the backdrop of minimalist electronica he embarks on something more akin to spoken word. The repetition, rhythm, earnestness (and lack of out and out jokes) are a bit of a shock if you’re expecting the Graham of Live at the Apollo, Mock the Week, or Taskmaster (aside from the regular breakdowns on the latter).

Besides Graham on the raised stage are two mic stands, one with a tiger onesie draped over it, and the other with a running vest and a bucket hat. There’s a table in the space with what can only be described as knick-knacks. The show is structured around the story of ten of these memories, many of which are tickets and photographs which are ceremoniously pinned up on a cork board against the back wall.

These memories take Graham on a journey from Edinburgh back to London, on the dating app Raya, through his Grandmother’s house before she passed away, and through the highlights of his time with his young daughter. It ends up feeling like a proper introspection through the fairly extraordinary adult life of a performer who has known extensive comic success. This is not a show played for relatability for the most part, and not even for jokes: the biggest laugh comes from the disparagement of a well known (though well disliked) actor.

What it does have, however, is a searingly honest exploration of nostalgia and regret. The most emotional section is a minute dedication to a lost friend, with nothing but the Waterboys playing. This is a beautiful paean, and is deeply affecting.

It feels like Graham – presumably after a lot of therapy – has pulled back the curtain on his usually bombastic, self effacing comic persona. There is a big question on here of why he has chosen to do this now. Maybe it has been a couple of years coming; Graham was asked about the influence of Hannah Gadsby’s groundbreaking Nanette during his previous tour which skirted around some of these topics. However, Carousel does not even use the veil of comedy as a frame, which I think is to its credit.

It is not often you want to give a performer a hug after a show, and I have to hold myself back when I see him in the lobby afterwards. I’m still slightly none the wiser as to what the show really is, or who it is meant to be for, but I don’t think it ultimately matters. The lights fall as Public Service Broadcasting (the band, not the Beeb) plays out, and it takes a few minutes before I feel ready to speak properly. It is an encouraging foray into a different type of storytelling, and I cannot wait to see where Graham goes from here.



Reviewed on 5th June 2024

by Rosie Thomas




IVO GRAHAM: CAROUSEL will also be at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe




Previously reviewed at this venue:

A SINGLE MAN | ★★★★ | May 2024
SUN BEAR | ★★★ | April 2024
HIDE AND SEEK | ★★★★ | March 2024
COWBOYS AND LESBIANS | ★★★★ | February 2024
HIR | ★★★★ | February 2024
LEAVES OF GLASS | ★★★★ | January 2024
KIM’S CONVENIENCE | ★★★★ | January 2024
21 ROUND FOR CHRISTMAS | ★★★★ | December 2023
THE TIME MACHINE – A COMEDY | ★★★★ | December 2023
IKARIA | ★★★★ | November 2023



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