Edinburgh Fringe 2018
An entire universe created by one man and two speakers, An Abundance of Tims is a solo show like no other with seamless integration of tech and perfect timing. Tim seizes what ought to make him mix into the crowd– the appearance of an average white guy– and turns it into a hilarious and surreal delight of an hour.
Based on sheer volume of flyers alone, an alternative name for the Edinburgh Fringe might be “An Abundance of White Male Comedy Shows.” With so many to choose from, what’s a funny solo male performer to do to stick out of the crowd? In An Abundance of Tims, showing in the Fern studio at Greenside @ Nicolson Square, creator and sole (well, sort of) performer Tim Chapman ingeniously flips the comedic solo genre upside-down by 1. doubling down on its inherent narcissism and 2. creating an ensemble cast with recordings of his own voice.
Alone on a stage, flanked by two speakers piping two more audio-Tims of previous recordings of himself, Tim invites the audience along for a story of mistaken identity, with bonus Tims peppered in for good measure (the town of the tale is dubbed Timchester “for legal reasons.”) Without giving away too much show, the tale essentially centers around Tim’s “forgettably” average white guy appearance, which he has already made unforgettable through his brilliant flyering– upon each chair is a wide-eyed, borderline psychotically-smiling Tim, doubling as both Tim-mask and promotional material, with show information on the back. (Again, Tim is always in abundance.) With all the Tim faces and all the Tim voices, we’re transferred gleefully into a live stage Tim version of Being John Malkovich. Except, of course, not John Malkovich, just… Tim.
The story itself matters less than the way in which it is conveyed: Tim slides from moment to moment in a graceful ballet between himself and his speakers, who are both scene partners and scenery, here a stool, there a table, now providing background ambiance, then inserting meta commentary. As this weird and wonderful tale unravels, the speaker-Tims prove unwilling dance partners, as they, in HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey fashion, slowly gain more and more agency, and Tim eventually loses control of his own story. Without spoiling the end, I’ll just say I wish more solo shows concluded with the same magnificent self-implosion of ego. It’s hilarious, bizarre, and even a bit unsettling, in the best possible way.
One particular note: due to the heavy use of speakers as costars, this show has all the potential to be a complete tech nightmare, but somehow comes off smooth as silk. Major kudos to the director (who also operates the board) and for Tim for seamless timing, making it strangely easy to forget the artifice altogether and really start believing these speakers may have minds of their own. This is a huge risk to take at the Fringe, where tech has a way of betraying shows on a regular basis, but it pays off marvelously.
An Abundance of Tim is the kind of comedy I wish I saw more of: it’s skillful, clever, and goes way beyond a cheap laugh. The performance, both live and recorded is crisp and clean, the delivery razor sharp, and the timing is perfect. This hilarious hour with a “forgettably” white male is utterly unforgettable.