Top Bodybuilder Brian is a fun, homemade semi-character comedy. Jayne Edwards is in character as Brian, a whey-protein addicted, middle-aged, divorced pumper of iron from Rhyl, but she’s not gone the whole hog, instead sticking with her own speaking voice and eschewing realistic costume for marker-drawn tats and abs and a ridiculous bald wig. There’s a Vic ‘n’ Bob DIY-ness to it, but without things being taken to the same madcap extremes. We’re always very aware that this is Jayne Edwards we are watching, just in a knocked-together, deliberately rubbish outfit.
It’s raw. It’s a little unpolished. But there are imaginative ideas and amusing diversions as she builds up Brian’s backstory, including a graphic, prop-based recreation of his birth and a retelling of meeting his ex-wife down the gym. We learn that Brian was Readers’ Wives Submitter of the Year 1995, and that he is fixated on fellow beefy bald man, Ross Kemp. There’s plenty of pop cultural references to get a sense of who this Brexit-voting, England-supporting Welshman is, be it Tip Tops, Golden Grahams and Monster Energy Drink or Wetherspoon’s, Paddy Power and Vape King.
Edwards is possibly better at coming up with these ideas than fully committing to them on stage. The slight corpsing and deadpan use of her natural voice do stop you fully getting involved with the character, even though the subtlety around the kind of things he does and likes is well-observed. Brian’s not as well-performed as he is written.
The best bit of tonight’s show is when he takes a nap (and that’s not a coded way of saying you’re glad he’s shut up). It’s just it gives Edwards the opportunity to screen a video of what features in Brian’s nightmares, pulling together references from the rest of the show into an animated dream sequence, including the beloved Ross Kemp and some weightlifting disasters.
As a first solo show at the Fringe, it’s no bad effort at all, and showcases another quirky piece from the north-west (English) comedy circuit.