Broken Funnies

Aug 25 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆     Worrying

Greenside @ Riddles Court (Venue 16): Mon 15 – Sat 27 Aug 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Broken Funnies, from Martin Bearne at Greenside @ Riddles Court, is a deeply personal show whose painful message is obscured by its structure.

Comedian Bearne’s solo show does feature stand-up, mixed in with some character comedy, but the main feature of the play is a version of Bearne talking to an unseen therapist. At first it appears that this, like the comedy, is being used to deflect attention from his real preoccupations. Soon, however, the narrative heads into very dark personal experiences, and the therapy seems all too real.

Poster image for Broken Funnies

The comedy, while decidedly hit and miss and certainly ‘adult’ in language, has an undoubted energy, while much of the material is genuinely heartfelt.

It is fair to say, however, that much of it is obscured by spitting rage and misfiring conceits, such as a parody of a ‘theatre’ type that is so cliched and over the top it has little impact, and is performed at a volume and pitch that immediately grates.

Thanks to director Viv Gee, however, there is genuine stagecraft and variety in much of the performance, with the evocation of the unseen therapist particularly strong. The overall structure of the piece is also effective.


Bearne is undoubtedly aware of the drawbacks of the production, such as the underdeveloped nature of some of it, or the ‘theatrical’ character who is far too loud and one-note, as he even makes reference to them. Having these deficiencies pointed out does not, however, mean that a reviewer should excuse them.

The autobiographical nature of much of the narrative also leads Bearne to literally dare critics to give him a bad review, with all the personal consequences that would entail.

There is definitely something here, though, under all that bluster and surface noise. A willingness to confront demons head on, and deal frankly with issues of mental health, will make this a valuable experience for many, even if its shortcomings as a piece of theatre are all too clear.

Running time: 50 minutes (no interval)
Greenside @ Riddles Court (Thistle Theatre), Riddles Court, 322 Lawnmarket, EH1 2PG (Venue 16)
Monday 15 to Saturday 27 August 2022
Evenings (not Sun 21): 14:55.
Information and tickets: Book here.

Facebook: @martin.bearne.3
Instagram: @martinbearne
Twitter: @BearneMartin


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