“When our grandparents were growing up things were simple, you were either a man or woman. Suddenly in the blink of an eye, it’s all ‘non-binary’, Uber Eats… It’s very confusing.” So pithily, sardonically – in affected, yet pertinent sympathy for the older generation – observes the find of the fest.
Other names may come to loom large this year, but I’d be surprised if anyone makes quite the same splash that 24-year-old Leo Reich does with his first full-length Edinburgh Fringe show.
Not since Jack Whitehall emerged here have I come away with a surer sense that stardom beckons for a newcomer. Ten years younger than Whitehall, Reich invites comparison: good looks and presence, and a persona that elides boyish confidence with knowing brattishness. He too makes merry with his “posh” background: “I’m one of the first people from Islington to dare to take a show to the Fringe!”
But the differences are striking, too. It’s not just that there’s something more flamboyant about Reich, preeningly dressed as if for clubbing. He talks about growing up gay, and pining for his best friend at school – the relayed pains of youth countered by bursts of parodically upbeat pop (music by Toby Marlow, who co-wrote Six).
In itself, this isn’t hugely novel – nor are the outre glances at gay life today. What’s buzz-making is his zesty, Generation Z grasp of reality, or lack thereof. His set can briefly lapse into ordinariness, or obviousness, but it feels thoroughly ground-breaking because it’s so savvy about the cultural climate. Reich at once presents himself as an object of satire – vapid, ignorant, impatient – and also a wit-armed rebel against that hollowness. Zipping from one apercu to the next, the height of fickle, his act laughs at the online age’s theatre of the self.
He scoffs at the future: “I don’t even know if being a comedian will be a job in 10 years. I might end up having to be a court jester for whichever Instagram celebrity manages to seize control of the most water.” The present is a minefield of triggered sensitivities. “If there’s a topic I don’t mention, please don’t read into that. I’d hate people to leave going: 'Definitely silent on world hunger’”
Alongside his drolly divulged romantic pining, then, there’s an ache for something better IRL. But he’s not fool enough to think it can be achieved by a click of the fingers (or mouse). Ending on a note of persuasive complaint, he subverts it with a mockingly inane punchline: “Therapy. That’s it – that’s the Tweet.” A dazzling debut.
Until Aug 28. Tickets: edfringe.com