Frankie Foxstone AKA The Profit Walking Tour at Edinburgh Fringe 2019: a poor investment
At the Assembly Rooms meeting point, we’re given yellow high-vis jackets and introduced to Frankie Foxstone, a middle-class property developer played by Amy Gwilliam who insists on shaking all of our hands before boasting about her achievements in the property world. The resemblance to several people I’ve met is uncanny.
Once we’re all familiar with each other, we’re whisked away on foot to Frederick Street, where we’re told about the ‘exciting development opportunity’ that Edinburgh’s new (well, it’s not so new now – hah) town presents to us. We are going to develop the area in five steps – this is the structure of the show. So far, so good.
As the show goes on, though, I begin to realise that it’s not actually going to fulfil its potential. Despite the occasional joke which hits home, there’s so much untapped material on gentrification, the property bubble, and class-division in modern Britain. There were several instances when I could think of multiple jokes that would land like a sledgehammer to Edinburgh’s new town, but Gwilliam almost always takes an easier route. Strutting about Edinburgh, complaining about celebrated architecture and gleefully discussing how we’ll redevelop a city full of character into a soulless carcass of steel and glass would be hilarious, but instead we get a vaguely inoffensive, shapeless walk with confusing games that’s only perilously held together by Gwilliam’s charm.
As the show evolves, too, it becomes more and more unfocused until it loses its form altogether. By the time we’re dancing around Edinburgh in the shape of a building to bagpipe music, it’s become less of a comedy show and more of one of those irritating walking discos that you see around the city at this time of year. What are we doing, playing a strange game of tag that’s supposed to have something to do with tax havens? What are we doing, discussing what sort of buildings we would be if we were buildings? What is this show? It’s not ‘weird in a good way’ – like Niteskreen or Tricky Second Album – it’s weird in a way that feels like a kids show mashed up with a walking tour with just a dash of Have I Got News for You thrown in at the last minute.
In fact, if I was asked what the most entertaining aspect of the show was, I’d probably have to say it was confusing passers-by who had no idea what the hell we were doing, and laughing as Gwilliam barked property-based phrases to them through her shoulder-strap mounted speaker before informing them ‘Frankie Foxtone Walking Tour, 2:15 every day’. Although this was funny, it’s kind of hard to ignore that it’s not really part of the piece.
Billed as ‘interactive satire for the Brexit era’, I can’t help but feel that The Profit Walking Tour has vastly oversold itself – or at least, it’s mis-sold itself. It’s a shame, because Amy Gwilliam is a naturally charismatic, confident host who would be brilliant for the sort of content that I was actually looking for coming into a piece like this. Still, the rest of the people in my group seemed to have a great time, and when I was speaking to them after the show (one of the things it does do excellently is make everyone friends with each other), they all described it as a highlight. That said, one of them recommended Baby Wants Candy to me as a second best – which is hardly a good sign.