Tragedy Plus Time takes place in the Assembly Rooms and the anticipation was palpable. Not only were people coming to see their favourite comedian, but it was in proper fancy surroundings.
I joined the queue 30 mins before the show started and was rewarded with a perfect seat.
The one-man show takes the form of a monologue disguised as stand-up. For a show based around the death of his brother, Ed Byrne’s show was very, very funny. The title derives from the quote “Comedy is tragedy plus time” (possibly from Mark Twain).
How much time must pass before you can make light of a personal tragedy? On one end of the spectrum, Ed had his car broken into. He was pretty pissed off at the time, but it wasn’t long before he was making us laugh with tales of abysmal customer service.
At the other end…well, that would be the death of his brother Paul, who died from liver failure in 2022. Ed Byrne’s recounting of his brother’s life and their often rocky relationship is poignant, touching, spiky and laugh-out-loud funny.
Best of all, it’s honest. Searingly so. No platitudes here.
Anyone who has struggled with expressing grief through fear of a negative reaction will just feel so relieved that Byrne is out there doing it. No fucks given.
While Paul was complicit in his liver failure – “there was a fair amount of user error there” – it was a series of unfortunate events that led to the eventual tragedy. Some of which Byrne is understandably upset about. It’s this rage which drives the show.
Tragedy Plus Time is beautifully written and flawlessly performed. It kicks you in the heart several times but also offers the kind of visceral humour that makes you laugh from your soul, so a beautiful balance is achieved.
From the moment Byrne bounds on stage, all long limbs and floppy hair, we’re focussed on him. The energy of the man is intense but he’s not about to plunge us into a dark tale of grief and loss.
Instead, he resets our expectation with a five minute preamble about his experiences of the show so far, before leading us to the meat of the matter.
I lost count of how many times I laughed in those five minutes alone.
What to expect
Laughter, lots of it, and possibly a tear or two. Be warned: If you dare to leave for a comfort break less that 15 minutes into the show, you may have your weak bladder ridiculed in front of 670 people.
That said, audience interaction is minimal. There is a great deal of swearing in the show and graphic descriptions of illness and end-of-life care.
In a nutshell
Helpless belly laughs among the pathos, Mr Byrne? That won’t be a problem.
A review of Ed Byrne: Tragedy Plus Time
Written by Deborah Murray
Author bio: Often found rescuing bees from pavements, the pinnacle of her ambition is doing the bus stop announcements on Lothian Buses, but for now she can be heard as the Announcer for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (yes, really). Proudly autistic.