James Dowdeswell: No More Mr Nice Guy

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

I hate to thwart James Dowdeswell’s ambitions, but this, his fourth solo show is, well, nice. It’s nicely written, nicely performed, nicely funny.

He is a relaxed and eminently affable comedian, and indeed man. The apex of his anger is to tut loudly. But, infuriated by an attempted mugging by 12-year-olds at a South London swimming pool, he becomes determined to show a tougher side.

This engaging routine then sets of with examples of bad behaviour he’s encountered as he struggles with modern urban life. He tells his anecdotes well, charmingly illustrated with mini-impressions of all the characters. He may not be streetwise, but he can do the accent.

He covers his brief appearance as Count Fuckula in Extras – it doesn’t quite fit the narrative, but Dowdeswell’s eloquent enough to cover such cracks – before focussing on his own strange schooldays, in which he had to ‘black up’ for the school play.

It’s here a slightly darker, more poignant strand enters the monologue, adding a different note to proceedings. Dowdeswell neither overplays nor underplays the seriousness of the story, which provides him with his satisfying payoff, but tells it straight and compellingly.

But ultimately, he can’t shake the Mr Nice Guy image. He does manage to be rude to someone, but it’s Mohammed Fayed, who, frankly, deserves anything coming his way – and who probably didn’t even get the message anyway. Neither is the inherent drama of his school story quite enough allow him to make the break from effortlessly enjoyable storytelling stand-up to comedy heavyweight.

Reviewed by Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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