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Phil Ellis – Unplanned Orphan review

Underbelly, Bristo Square

The ‘show’s gone wrong’ theme has long been a Fringe favourite. But Phil Ellis takes it to extreme measures in his ambitious, deliberately chaotic debut show. He’s convincing, too: at some moments, you genuinely can’t tell whether it’s an actual mistake or all part of the script.

Reading off notes, and messing up lines, Ellis explains that show’s theme is ‘life doesn’t always go to plan’, and starts with some fairly mundane stories. He’s in proper club comic mode, joking about ‘women and multitasking’ and boasting that he’s ‘the most reliable act on the north Manchester circuit’.

But as Ellis gets to more personal matters – his parents recently told him he was adopted – the show begins to unravel, with constant, and increasingly ridiculous, interruptions getting in the way of his narrative.

There are a few clues that give the game away. Why, for example, in a 50-seat portacabin does the tech speak through his own microphone if he’s just operating the sound and lights? And some moments – like Ellis begging the audience for spare change – really drag on. But it’s a risky, elaborate show that keeps your intention. A slow-burner that's just about worth sticking with.   

See 'Phil Ellis – Unplanned Orphan' at the Edinburgh Fringe