If you believe the programme blurb, Bon Ami is about social isolation, loneliness, and the risks of living alone. Which is sort-of true, but that sounds so very heavy; I'd prefer to spin it around. Bon Ami is a sharp artistic parody, a hilarious physical comedy, and – most importantly – a joyful celebration of friendship in all its many forms.
One of those friendships is between the two people on the stage, and it's clear from the beginning that this particular relationship is on the rocks. Standing on the left, Tatiana Collet-Apraxine excitedly announces that they'll share the leading role; over on the right, Amalia Vitale is the very picture of suppressed disdain. It's all an act of course, but Collet-Apraxine does her best to convince us that she's not quite up to the part, with breathless delivery and tuneless singing just two of the weapons in her comic arsenal. Any old fool can stand on stage and make themselves look terrible; it takes phenomenal skill to turn in a performance so subtly, believably, and lovably bad.
Notionally, the storyline concerns a woman called Ami and her first day in a new office, but that premise is quickly jettisoned after a couple of ice-breaking scenes. The first half of the show's mainly given over to an entertaining dissection of online friendship – complete with live simulations of glitching videos and real-world swipes on Tinder. Bon Ami is by no means the first show ever to play these tricks, but few manage to do it so wittily or so well. And of course, there's a serious point being made here too: not that social media is inherently evil, but certainly that it should be handled with care.
Later, when Collet-Apraxine dons "virtual reality goggles", the story takes off in an unexpected direction. I won't spoil what happens, but they're parodying a different genre now – ratcheting up the silliness and the humour in an almost cinematic style. There's a touching out-of-character interlude too, which breaks not only the fourth wall but other barriers besides, and perhaps comes closest of all to directly challenging the isolation endemic in modern life.
Just a couple of things didn't quite work for me. The set – which initially represents an office, festooned with network cables – transforms into something more surprising later on; I enjoyed the striking imagery, but I didn't entirely understand how it slotted into the plot. And there is something we are told about a light bulb, which was either deliberately confusing or just too complicated for me to get my head around. Either way, I'm not convinced it adds enough to justify the mental distraction.
But those things aren't important. What matters is that Bon Ami is funny from beginning to end – filled with irreverent free-wheeling humour, which both surprised and delighted me. It makes some real connections, delivers some genuine lessons, and there's a poignant footnote to the seeming rivalry we witness on the stage. And it's all wrapped up in a blanket of warm-hearted comedy – adding up to one of the funniest hours I've enjoyed in this month-long Fringe.