As if the Edinburgh Fringe weren’t enough of an intellectual hotbed, Norwegian comedy duo Martin Beyer-Olsen and Lars Berrum have made it their mission to enlighten those who, in their eyes, are falling a little short of the cultural ‘wokeness’ expected of them.
Beyer-Olsen and Berrum aim to do this through a series of small skits and songs, complete with black turtlenecks and red wine. They’ve even gone so far as to have a one-person VIP section (beware, they’re stringent with who qualifies – anyone outwith the arts need not apply).
Although the show is ostensibly about how to become a cultured person, in reality it’s much more meandering than that: it covers the Norwegian economy, refugees, and American comedians, amongst other things. This isn’t a bad thing, though: one-track shows can get boring, and Cülture Elité definitely isn’t boring.
Where the show falls short is in its consistency. A lot of it – especially the songs, which are all excellent – is truly hilarious and has the audience equal parts bemused and amused. There’s a song about ‘woke’ Lars Bellum, a song about oil money, a song about time (which quickly devolves into a performer versus audience situation, with great results). But at other times, the pacing just seems a little off. For instance, shortly after Berrum has hyped up the audience at the very start of the show with some great meta-comedy, the two embark on a tangential, meandering exchange about coffee which kills the mood pretty quickly. It’s hard work to build it back up again, especially when you’re discussing topics such as the 2011 Norwegian mass shooting – they save it, but the audience is a little too uncomfortable for a little too long.
The bits of Cülture Elité that are good, are very good indeed and it’s worth sitting through the slightly less remarkable bits, if only to see two Norwegian men chant OIL! OIL! OIL! while dancing to techno music.