Whether you want to call it comedy, performance art, cult, or just a big waste of time, one thing is certain, this show has staying power.
The show has been performed every year at the Edinburgh Fringe since 2009. Not even Covid, could shut it down.
This month will see the thirteenth annual performance of the fringe-iest of Fringe shows, one where the long-winded title pretty much sums up the totality of the hour-long theatrical performance:
A Young Man Dressed As A Gorilla Dressed As An Old Man Sits Rocking In A Rocking Chair For Fifty-Six Minutes And Then Leaves…13.
Background information about the show is scant. The identity of the performer is a mystery.
The only form of promotion for the show was a short email delivered on Friday from someone called Liam El Goog (a thinly disguised anagram of Google Mail).
The promotional blurb hasn’t changed since the first Edinburgh Fringe performance in 2009. Only the title has been tweaked to reflect the number of years the show has been performed in Edinburgh:
“A Young Man Dressed As A Gorilla Dressed As An Old Man Sits Rocking In A Rocking Chair For Fifty-Six Minutes And Then Leaves…13
One performance only. Turn up early, sellout expected.”
Since its inception, the show has simultaneously baffled and bemused Fringe audiences as this video from the show’s premiere in 2009 reveals.
Yet for all its minimalist staging - a sedentary, performer rocking back and forth - the show can at times get thoroughly raucous. The kind of audience reception you'd expect for a true rock star.
In this pre-Covid, 2019 performance, you can hear the audience playing along, cheering the performer’s more energetic rocking, and groaning when the movement of the chair slows to a halt.
— Simon Kirk (@sikirk) August 10, 2019
The show has gone on to other Fringe festivals. In Orlando, for example, some members of the audience ended up getting up on stage and dancing around the rocking performer. Performer Jon Bennett was credited, in reports from Orlando, with creating the original show.
A second gorilla also appeared on stage.
Last year, with shows cancelled, the gorilla-suited one donned a Covid mask and took the rocker to what looks like the Meadows. Fans were able to react to the live-stream performance on El Goog’s YouTube channel, as passers-by wandered in and out of shot. It’s the only video on the YouTube channel, even though it was set up in 2012.
At one point, a television crew attempts to interview the performer. Were they in on the joke?
Questions abound: "Is this the same 'young man' who performed this show back in 2009"? "Is it the same gorilla suit?" "How old is the young man?"
And the question everyone wants the answer to: "What is the point of the show?"
Also, the date given in the email for the show was different from the one on the PBH website (26th August). Which date is it? Both?
I replied to the El Goog email with my questions and to my surprise I did hear back within 24 hours, although, not surprisingly, El Goog shed little light on the mystery.
“I'm afraid I do not know the answer to any of those questions,” replied El Goog.
“I am just sent the admin tasks. And yes, the incorrect date was sent to me. It is indeed Aug 26th, thank you for pointing this out.”
At least, the date is confirmed and El Goog will be livestreaming the show via YouTube so anyone can enjoy the show in all its fringe-worthy glory.
A Young Man Dressed As A Gorilla Dressed As An Old Man Sits Rocking In A Rocking Chair For Fifty-Six Minutes And Then Leaves…13 is at La Belle Angèle on 26th August, 17:20 - 18:16 and and online. Part of the PBY Free Fringe.