Review: Bill O'Neill: The Amazing Banana Brothers

An absurdist, and profoundly moving, banana-centred hour

comedy review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Bill O'Neill
Photo by Van Corona
Published 05 Aug 2023

There’s a large bucket on stage, overflowing with bananas and a blackboard on the wall with the word ‘tally’ written in all caps. Tonight, two daredevil brothers will take on the impossible in their attempts to slip on 1,000 banana peels – a stunt requiring extreme grit and gusto.

Headliner Kevin Calamity is the embodiment of toxic masculinity, an eyepatch, moustache and foul attitude distinguishing him from his younger, meeker brother, Joey Insanity. But when Calamity is unable to complete the show, Insanity is forced to step up, his endearing nervous energy carrying him through a number of death-defying stunts.

With Natalie Palamides – winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Newcomer in 2017 – on board as the director, The Amazing Banana Brothers was bound to be packed with a very particular brand of surreal, unpredictable and at times unsettling humour. But the absurdity is not arbitrary or frivolous; the slapstick stunts, maniacal spirit and uneasy tension all contribute to a cocktail of anxieties around grief and failure. 

Bill O'Neill is phenomenal in his clowning and audience interplay, succeeding in his use of the banana as the primary motif all the way through. It becomes a grenade, a gun, a piece of spaghetti à la Lady and the Tramp and so much more, the smell of mushed-up and mangled banana increasingly overwhelming everything else in the room.

Ultimately, you may ask yourself: how funny can slipping on a banana peel over and over again actually be? Turns out, it might equally be the funniest and most profound thing you see all Fringe.