Review: Bob the Russian at Unity Theatre

By Nigel Smith

BOB the Russian is Naughty Corner’s 6thproduction and writer/director Mike Dickinson shows no signs of slowing down. In this fast paced comedy, Dickinson again demonstrates his skill in layering raucous laughter with political and social comment.

By the time this production hits the Edinburgh Fringe we’ll know whether its premise of Russia and England reaching the World Cup final has been realised. Meanwhile it forms the setting for a gangster romp, with a collection of hapless heisters using the preoccupation of the local police as cover for a bank raid.

Adam Leyland is Bob, the mysterious, tight-lipped Russian who collects together an unlikely band of robbers. Along the way they enlist the help of local mafia boss Friend Zarin played with gleeful narcissism by Thomas Galashan.

Some of the first act’s fight scenes are a little protracted – occupying the full duration of the musical tracks they are set to – but they are impressively choreographed and stand up to the close scrutiny of the Unity’s intimate space.

The comedy is mainly carried by magician Lyles Larue from Adam Nicholls, Callum Forbes’ steely eyed Inhaler, and Demon, a slapstick thug played for laughs by Liam Powell-Berry. There’s an sharp, understated performance from Warren Kettle as an English bank security guard Kevin, working his Russian holiday to pay his way through the football tournament, and really focused work from Laura Connelly, the gang member who turns on the charm to wheedle information from him.

Dickinson also manages to find comedy mileage in the fact that the rubber masks supposed to depict Putin actually look just as much like Paul Daniels.

In the second act everything falls into place, when Daniel Hubbard’s quietly serious Child shares words with Friend Zarin, giving the play its political heart in a bold statement about Russia’s stance on LGBT+ rights.

The result is a high energy evening of sharp tongued dialogue and physical action that also packs an emotional punch. Naughty Corner are a company to watch.

Bob The Russian travels to Edinburgh for the Fringe festival this summer, with performances at 10.15pm from 3rd – 11th August, except Sunday, at The Space @ Niddry St.