ABI BENNETT wishes UM had been a bit more decisive.
Corpus Playroom, 8th October, 9.30pm, £5
Dir. Ben Pope
Imagine Boris Johnson, Dylan Moran and Jimmy Carr combined, and you’ve got a good idea of Ben Pope’s stand-up style. The audience were hugely welcoming, seemingly made up entirely of friends and family, with the odd reviewer strewn here and there. This was lucky, considering Pope’s nerves occasionally threatened to get the best of him. Granted, this was his first ever solo show. But I did wonder occasionally whether it would have been as enjoyable without such an encouraging audience.
Pope has a lovely turn of phrase – beautiful one-liners trip off his tongue. His poetically comic style is, however, at times threatened by his speed of delivery: had Pope occasionally slowed down a bit, instead of speeding on to the next joke, we would have better appreciated his comedic nuggets. The verbal overkill also sometimes undermined the beauty of his phrases, which was a shame.
Though Pope’s style and linguistic ability are winning, his choice of topics just isn’t. X-factor, Justin Bieber, tourists, posh people, romantic conquests, dogs, babies. We’ve been here many times before. This lack of daring and adventurousness here eant an air of déjà-vu to the whole evening. If the same inventiveness and imagination had been applied to his subject choice as to his linguistic choices, everyone would have had more fun.
Unfortunately, there is a similar lack of consideration regarding the structure of the show. There is no sense of climax: just topic, topic, and topic, ad infinitum. Without a sense of momentum sweeping us along, the show grew a bit tiring, and eventually just petered out. Pope also lost his way a bit in the middle, when his stories descended into a series of impressions or observations with no narrative drive. This would have been fine, had the impressions or observations been original and interesting. They weren’t.
This all sounds like I didn’t enjoy the evening, but I did, I just thought it was a shame that Pope’s obvious comedic potential hadn’t been fulfilled. Once he’s got his nerves under control, and gained enough confidence to expand his horizons, he could be a great performer. There were flashes of brilliance, where even the stoniest faced of audience member was forced to laugh, but these didn’t come often enough to merit anything more than three stars. Overall, it was comedy in macaroni cheese form: comforting, but ultimately undemanding.