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Nick Helm: Keep Hold of the Gold

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Brash-as-bulldogs Nick Helm will be the breakout act of this Fringe – or at least he ought to be if there’s any justice. A relatively unknown circuit act, his brilliantly assured full-length solo debut is a riot of energy, song and comic invention.

He takes to the stage like a scary Tim Vine: a loud and overpowering force, growling and rasping his one-liners at the audience in a way that makes Brendon Burns look like Josie Long. ‘This is really happening!’ he screams after one mid-level pun, as a muscular guitar riff adds even more brawn to the punchline. Subtle is for pussies.

Yet there’s just the right hint of playfulness to it all, so that although he’s forceful, he’s never intimidating. To prove the point, once he’s dispensed with the cheesy wordplay he hectors, cajoles the audience to do what he wants, especially in a splendidly inspired and nicely unusual moment, which not only breaks the ice but smashes it to smithereens.

His command of performance is undeniable, mastering the difficult art of repetition and the pregnant pause, and welling with passion and bare emotion as he rants away. He’s more pitiful than aggressive when he tries to woo an audience member, the comic’s mask slipping to reveal the broken man behind. Fringe audiences tend to like their shows to involve issues. And, my, has Helm got issues, as slowly becomes clear.

All this is interspersed with bits of poetry and roaring pub rock numbers that would do Chas & Dave proud. Accompanied by his guitarist Rob, he belts out numbers such as the blatant I Fancy The Pants Off Of You and the plaintiff call to convince a potential paramour to choose him instead, He Makes You Look Fat. They’re sharp, funny and loud – very much like their full-on singer.

Helm can’t quite avoid the 40-minute flag, and seems to dip his own energy at that point too, but the roller-coaster soon cranks back into action and we’re off towards the typically vigorous ending. It’s a real blast.

Review date: 19 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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