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Edinburgh Fringe 2017

The Oppression Olympics

Here, Have Some Comedy

Genre: Farce, Theatre

Venue: theSpace@Venue 45


Low Down

Crisply written piece that takes a hilarious and irreverent look at sentimentality and self-pity.


The origins of the term Oppression Olympics are somewhat obscure, but it’s a relatively modern phenomenon, thought to date from the mid-1990’s, where individuals or groups compete to try and establish which is the more authentic, oppressed or victimised, be that on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race or other describing feature.

The “winner”, if it can be given such a moniker, is the person or group who succeeds in being identified as that most marginalised. Whilst there are no gold medals available to whoever mounts the podium, the lucky soul at least occupies a prime spot in terms of visibility and benefits from the attendant possibilities in terms of allocation of resources.

It was only a matter of time, therefore, before some bright spark came up with idea of satirising this martyred, seemingly bullet-proof class of citizen.  But just how crass is it to mock the afflicted, to expose the frailties of human suffering to the acerbic wit of the lampooner?

Well, actually, it’s a complete hoot.  We are all, at times, guilty of too much self-pity, thinking that there is no-one in a worse position, no-one who has to deal with as much misery, heartache and disadvantage.  It’s all too easy to lose focus and convince yourself that no-one has it tougher than you.

Meet Milo, Alex and Hayley, all of whom are in such a position.  Then in walks Ruth, who really has got gold medal grief to deal with.  This does not go down well with our trio and so the four complete strangers end up arguing at a bus stop in a bid to try and establish just who is the toughest of the tough.  One thing leads to another in this calamity contest and the conversation becomes more and more barbed as home truths are shared.

Will Dalrymple and Mark Bittlestone have produced a brilliant, tightly crafted piece of writing, full of belly-laughs but with an undercurrent that chills – it’s not so much an irreverent and satirical look at self-pity as a full-on derision of that state.  But the writers are saying what, one imagines, many people think when they look, at a distance, on those who’ve perhaps suffered genuine and damaging misfortune.

And some strong performances ensured that the crisp writing sprang to life from the page – well mostly.  Milo crashed his way through feelings like a bovine amongst the bone china and Alex was wonderfully and believably narcissistic.  But whilst Ruth brought pathos and irony to her position, the supporting cast didn’t always get the best out of their characters, failing at times to identify with what they were saying, leading to a few great lines getting lost on the way.

More time working these sub-plot characters and this could become an absolute cracker of a show.  As it stands, though, it has a lot to recommend it.  Worth a look.