Note: This review is from the 2022 Fringe

A performance that strains the comic potential of repetition to its limits, The Ritual is one of those silly, experiential moments that no Fringe is complete without.

A vampiric aristocrat, The Master (Steffen Hånes), is desperate to make a spooky entrance and Gregor, his butler (Gregory Lass), is desperate to provide him with it. Every interruption, every disturbance in the crowd, is a cue to reset and start again. Tonight, his aura’s disrupted by some spontaneous raising of a cross sign, a toilet break, and simple confusion over an audience member’s pronunciation of Kirkcaldy, so it’s back to his shrouded slumber, ready for another go.

The demands made of Gregor by his Lord in order to prepare for his entrance only increase as the hour progresses. He wants spooky lights, he wants smoke, he wants the room cleared of Christians. Eventually he wants the blood of a virgin. And Gregor hands responsibility for securing these demands onto a third party – Emily, a put-upon Scottish techie in plain clothes, completely at odds with the otherwise theatrical Transylvanian vibe.

It’s one-note humour, but brutally and brilliantly exploited. The two Transylvanians are intensely into their parts, which only makes the mask slips funnier, and Emily’s undramatic cameos are all the more delightful for the contrast. They labour the conceit very, very hard, but the audience keep buying into it. In several different spells, Gregor fills minutes encouraging us to clap along with his bodhran, trying to catch us out with his rhythms, but such are his comic facial mannerisms, it somehow doesn’t get tiresome.

It’s pure clowning, thinly plotted but highly entertaining. All it really lacks is the narrative clincher that would lift it from riffing brilliantly off a productive idea to the fully finished product.