While this year’s Fringe may have been one of the wettest in recent years, many audiences find themselves battling against the heat of stuffy, cramped rooms. Conscious that the hotel room in Sweet Grassmarket that has been allocated for her show is sure to be a scorcher, Sonia Aste plays on her Spanish culture by offering each audience member a yellow or red fan as they enter the room – cooling down her audience while encouraging them to see her show as a fiesta and not time for a siesta.
With a selection of topical tapas menus, Made in Spain 2 squeezes in a vast range of subjects that includes some of the cultural differences between Spain and the UK. It’s a niche way to structure an hour of comedy, yet it caters to Aste’s comedic style as she plays on her Spanish heritage and the stereotypes that Spain is known for. While the show is promoted as giving the audience a choice in what material they hear – for they get to pick the running order – every dish on the menu is eventually served, so the unpredictability of the act, and of wondering what’s to come next, loses some of its bite.
Still, Aste proves herself to be a natural comedian as she interacts with her audience. Made in Spain 2 is driven by its audience and their steady flow of participation. In such a cosy room, it’s not just the front row who are put on the spot: rather, Aste talks to almost every person in the room – including the madrileños who are ridiculed for proving a Spanish stereotype by arriving late. Asking her audience about their nationalities, professions and favourite football teams, Aste welcomes everyone in the room and finds the humour in the smallest of details. She also whips out some placards with phrases like ‘Save the NHS’ that she manages to weave into the show based on the audience’s answers, much to their delight.
The freshness of Aste’s genuine interest in her audience makes the hour a relaxed one, while also showing off the comedian’s quick wit – which is particularly impressive when you remember English is not her first language. During this particular performance, her hilarious sparring with a Basque member of the audience about the independence debate in Spain highlights the fractured socio-political climate of the country without dampening the atmosphere.
That said, there are some moments when Aste struggles to stay on track. Given the fact she is keen to seek out Spanish natives in her audience, it’s quite surprising that Aste is taken aback by the riotous laugh she gets from the Spanish speakers present when she mentions a crass Spanish saying – first saying it in her mother tongue before translating it into English. Her eagerness to interact with the audience backfires in this respect, as she struggles to keep her focus when they are more receptive to the punchlines than she perhaps was expecting.
Despite this setback, Sonia Aste does a good job in bringing Spain’s warmth and festive atmosphere to Edinburgh, engaging her audience with an hour of comedy that is filled with laughter. You may even find yourself craving some tapas paired with una cerveza or two as you go.