In her second Fringe show If/Then, Olga Koch covers a lot of ground – studying in the male-dominated field of computer science, growing up in Russia and moving to the US, falling in love and the weirdness of Skyping a relative into a funeral.
Koch bounds onto stage, full of enthusiasm despite admitting later in the show that’s she’s having a tough Fringe. The comedian had a dream start to her comedy career with a 2018 Best Newcomer nomination in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards for show Fight and returns with a solid, if tonally uneven show.
The comedian uses an AI device called ALGO during the show as a fact checker. ALGO will pipe up if Koch is telling fibs, which is used to fairly predictable effect throughout the show. It’s a nice trick to marry the computer science and the comedy elements of Koch’s life but the use of the voiceover stunts the momentum and feels superfluous. Koch is a capable, commanding performer who doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks to keep the audience interested.
The highlights of the show are when Koch is at her most outlandish – a takedown of the live action Beauty and the Beast movie, joking about an ex-boyfriend’s new partner’s pussy and falling for someone who looks like her brother are all hilarious anecdotes. An observation on elderly care homes and how a 104-year-old doesn’t share the same culture references as someone in their 80s is sharp and astute. Koch is a charming, confident performer who often collapses into laughter herself, which is an endearing character trait.
There’s a moment of vulnerability towards the end of the show which causes the tone to shift and the audience are caught off guard. If the tonal shift had been introduced sooner then perhaps Koch would have had a chance to reinforce her message and the audience would have had time to process. This is a solid hour that could do with a few minor tweaks to take it to the next level.