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Nick Helm: Dare To Dream

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Nick Helm is comedy’s answer to glam rock, all swaggering machismo, aggressive posturing and energetic showmanship. Plus you wouldn’t be surprised if the frontman turned out to be a sex offender.

Emerging into the Guggenheim-skinned Portakabin of Pleasance Beside in an ocean of fake smoke, awesome guitar licks and pulsating lights, Helm certainly makes an entrance. ‘Let’s fuck this puppy!’ he hollers, in one of his unlikely, full-on catchphrases and we’re crashing into the fist-pumping opening number.

With a voice that sounds like he’s been gargling drain cleaner, he screams at the audience, bullying them to take part or join him on stage. He’s fiercely intimidating, evoking the primeval laughs of dissipating fear as he barks out brusque instructions. It would be terrifying, if he didn’t just give away the slightest chuckle to prove he’s not quite the ogre his hostile onslaught suggests. He’s just trying to ram the fun down your throat, that’s all – and it’s the most irresistibly powerful opening gambit around.

Of course, he couldn’t possibly maintain that intensity for the whole hour – his voice couldn’t take it for starters – and so he introduces his backing musicians Robert Scott and Chris Boyd for marginally more relaxed songs and poems. However, that brooding air of menace still hangs over proceedings, as he creepily grooms one favoured member of the front row, luring them to his special place, while spitting venom at another punter he takes issue with, dedicating the verse The Dickhead, delivered in spittle-flecked fury in their honour. Pam Ayres was never like this.

The hour is punctuated with awkward silences, heavy breathing and expletive-heavy songwriting, growled out antagonistically –  all symptoms of an appalling post-breakdown man who’s lost all sense of social mores. His desperation gets such that even he can’t ignore it any more, and he mournfully starts fingering the props for jokes he never did.

This is by turns mournfully and explosively funny, with a palpable edge of unpredictably to his supercharged performance. There is no comic quite like Nick Helm. Comedy should be thankful that there is one of him; and equally thankful that there is no more than one of him.

Review date: 11 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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