Fest Reviews: Issue 4

Published in Fest, August 18 2011

Neil Delamere: Divilment
4 stars

He’s a regular on TV panel and chat shows across the Irish sea, so it seems odd, given the strength of this intelligent and almost always hilarious hour-long riff on his country’s national character, that Neil Delamere hasn’t yet followed his compatriots Ed Byrne and Dara Ó Briain in achieving similar levels of success over here.  Neil Delamere

Taking “divilment”the Irish slang for mischievousness—as his theme, he leaps and bounds energetically through what it means to be Irish, offering up humorous vignettes as illustrative examples and produces new, imaginative takes on such well-worn Emerald Isle topics as alcoholism, RyanAir and the IRA. The last of these is a brilliant, cutting witticism about Republicans blowing up balloons in protest at the Queen’s state visit to Ireland.

Able to find humour and hope in the darkest of corners—he even manages to make hilarious the initially alarming concept of a suicidal baby—Delamere personifies perfectly the irrepressible, cheeky sense of fun that he claims is so central to his homeland, even as it weathers one the most serious crises in its history.

He perhaps relies a little too much on audience interaction, devoting what feels like a good 10 minutes or so to an Azerbaijani dancer in the front row who has caught his wandering eye, although he does at least manage to make some substantive links between each person and his material.

Whether the Irish really are intrinsically funnier than any other nation is up for debate, but on the strength of this performance, it seems entirely possible.

Arthur Smith’s Pissed-up Chat Show
1 stars 

It’s fortunate for the star that this show is predicated on the assumption that his audience is pissed, because they’d have to be so blathered as to be near comatose to enjoy it.

Smith sets the tone right from the off, bounding onto the stage in a bright green suit, waving his hands and arms manically in the air in an obnoxious and completely unfunny way.

Actor Clive Mantel, promoting his Tommy Cooper impression show Jus’ Like That, is given barely a minute for his routine, and the rest of his segment is taken up with a long, meandering and—given the supposedly light-hearted nature of the show—incongruent discussion about how nasty the legendary comedian was.

Arthur Smith

Smith’s next guest is the enormously talented performance poet Luke Wright, but after he has delivered his brilliantly acerbic ballad about a pair of crass Tory boys, he ushers him into a chair and ignores the most entertaining person on the stage for the rest of the show, forcing him to sit silently through a rambling and barely audible set from Hardeep Singh Kohli, who seems to think eating a pickled egg whole is the height of comedy .

The show closes with a rendition of No Nay Never, the lyrics to which are—for reasons entirely beyond anyone—printed on cards held by two unfortunate and completely naked stage hands, the young man clearly trying his best not to look mortified, desperately attempting to sing and hide his modesty at the same time.

Perhaps predictably, given the subject matter, the shows ends up like most drunks: stumbling, incoherent, boring, and never knowing when to stop.

Ali Cook: Principles and Deceptions
4 stars

Magic, it seems, is enjoying a renaissance and Ali Cook is one of its most talented new stars. By mixing old and new—sleight-of-hand routines with coins and cards alongside some more modern Derren Brown-style mind tricks—he both pays homage to the long history of his trade and produces a highly innovative show. Even some of the most well-known tricks are given an unexpected twist—his assistant avoids being impaled on the poles that are thrust into the box, but she emerges not out of the box, instead appearing on the top row of seats—leaving the audience baffled as to how she managed to escape from the box without being seen, and then get round the sides and up the stands in a matter of seconds.

Ali Cook

This is an extremely tight, fast-paced hour: he dispenses with the long, tedious setups that so often plague magic shows and moves swiftly from one to the next, hardly giving the audience time to wonder “How did he do that?” before he is away on the next trick. Cook—an actor and comedian to boot—peppers his show with alternately sinister and cheeky, impish humour, proving a charming host as well an accomplished magician.

The sense of complete bafflement is broken briefly when he attempts two tricks that could not possibly been done without the help of a planted audience member, taking the shine off what is otherwise an extremely slick and enormously impressive show.

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