Winner of the 2012 Chortle Award for best newcomer
Pat Cahill Videos
Pat Cahill: D.O.T.T.
He almost forgets to mention it, but the abbreviated title of Pat Cahill’s show stands for ‘Deckchairs on the Titanic’, the metaphorical rearrangement of which has come to symbolise ineffectual tinkering in the face of disaster. However a better point of reference might be the liner’s equally legendary band, putting on a stoic face and playing on as the stricken vessel sank to the icy Atlantic depths.
Here, Cahill makes a play of ‘slapping on the fake smile’ as Bill Hicks had it, and soldiering on as his planned extravaganza of Morris dancing and English folk music – a bold choice for a Scottish festival – is holed below the waterline by by misbehaving technology. With no Plan B, he fills time with haphazard snippets from his repertoire, creating a shambolic one-man variety show… of sorts.
There’s a very blurry line between the intentional chaos and the unintentional, as Cahill stumbles from item to item. But this both casual, low-key approach (‘Sorry about this,’ becomes something of a catchphrase) and the inherently erratic nature of the show, hampers the momentum.
Making the best of a bad situation he pulls out silly set pieces with jingles, games (the silly mime-based Graceful Or Disgraceful) and even near-conventional stand-up, as the absurdist dips his toe into the pool of reality. There’s something evocative about his reminiscences about growing up in a small Fens village of 200 inhabitants, where the local church provided everything from Christian rock entertainment to sex education (or rather abstinence education) via the medium of copyright-stretching Simpsonsalikes.
Some of the anecdotes are over-long, such as his ‘gap year’ trip to Ireland, and there’s the occasional ill-thought-through bit: the Noel Edmonds skit doesn’t really fit with anything, and there’s an unpleasant truth at the heart of it, that goes against Cahill’s usual demeanour.
Yet seemingly against the odds – apt given the show’s theme – the truthful bits coalesce into a conclusion that makes some sense of the preceding hour; a satisfying ending that many straight stand-ups would be proud of, never mind the nonsense interludes that are usually his trademark.
Nonsense is what Cahill does, though, so we end back on the initial track with the folk-singing spoofs, which again go on a bit too long. Typical of a show that’s scrappy around the edges, but with a solid core.