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Neil Sinclair: Panic!

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

The London riots certainly shook Neil Sinclair up. Returning to Britain after six years in Melbourne, this cheery young cove found himself at the epicentre of last August’s disturbances, barricading himself into his flat as chaos reigned in the street below.

You’d think he was still hiding, given his venue in this festival, which is accessed through the back of a bar, past the outside toilets and via an unlikely set of steps across the city rooftops. But the show, once you discover it, is quite the find.

Sinclair – who won the Raw comedy competition in 2008 – is a keen joke-writer who has used his experiences of that fateful night as a nifty framing device for his handiwork. The amusing story of how he and his flatmates were woefully under-prepared for the urban disturbances on his doorstep calls to mind the ‘hapless band of slackers in a crisis’ narrative of Shaun Of The Dead, and provides a much stronger hook that simply cracking wise for an hour.

The segues aren’t always elegant, and some of the pithy one-liners are – like the windows of his local electrical store, – hammered in. For example, he imagines an ‘incident room’ in his kitchen, with regular updates on the situation coming in on a ticker-tape machine… which also happens to spew out the curveball one-liners Sinclair has an inspired knack for. There’s the occasional groaner of a pun, too, but he charms his way through those with a cheeky grin that acknowledges the strain he subjects the language to.

That playful stance even means he can warm us up with a bit of ukulele playing combined with audience participation and it still be inclusive and enjoyable, despite preconceptions. Elsewhere, he nicely subverts the ‘what do you do’ school of banter with the help of a trusty cassette deck.

Not quite everything comes off, but there is no doubt this is an impressive offering, with sharp gags, professionally structured, and warmly delivered by a disarmingly inclusive young comedian.

Review date: 22 Apr 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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