Magnus Betnér: Cum all ye Faithful!

archive review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 15 August 2010

It's no real surprise when Magnus Betnér reveals he is a huge star in his native Sweden – with such charisma it would be a shock if he wasn't.

Betnér revels in pushing boundaries, a personality trait quickly established when he refers to the recent deaths of three children in Edinburgh's Slateford area. It's the first in a series of lines which result in a combination of laughter and sharp intakes of breath. But beyond the surface there's nothing here to really offend and, in an indication of things to come, he quickly turns the spotlight back on his own weaknesses.

This is a set that tackles life's big subjects—war, religion, sex, abortion—head-on with courage and intelligence. You might not agree with Betner on every subject but he'll have a damn good shot at changing your mind.

Despite material some might find offensive, this is a curiously moral show, with Betnér decrying the belief system offered by his religious father and replacing it with his own, largely humanist values. Like all the most interesting people he's a mass of contradictions—a bisexual who has never slept with a man, a father who doesn't particularly like children, a feminist who loves pornography—but he is no hypocrite. His thoughts on everything from the Swedish Army to alcoholism are justified with tightly worked arguments.

He's such a natural raconteur that the laughs, of which there are many, almost seem to come as a bonus. Betnér is the best Swedish export since Bergman.