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Nick Helm: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

If love is a battlefield, Nick ‘The Badass’ Helm is the Enola Gay, unleashing an horror of unimaginably devastating power on to the helpless combatants.

He appears to have missed his true calling, as Kim Jong-Il’s natural successor. Dressed in lavish military finery and chest full of self-awarded medals, this megalomaniacal dictator of comedy demands nothing less than complete subjugation from his troops, the audience. When the order is given, we must chant his name, march to his beat, obey his every command and envisage him as a mighty, noble hero, not the sweaty, breathless man yelling himself hoarse in front of us.

Then comes the heavy artillery: F-bombs raining down like Agent Orange alongside a salvo of brilliant yet bad puns, providing a shock and awesome opening. Resistance is crushed and our reservations fall to his swagger.

But the heat of war does strange things to a man, and – following a similar format that got him an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination last year – it’s not long before the mask of braggadocio slips to reveal the pathetic and lonely bundle of insecurities behind the bluster. All he really wants is to be loved; maybe he can find it in the arms of the poor sap he nominates as his unlucky batman in these bloodied trenches. There are shades of Johnny Vegas in this – but that can never be considered a criticism.

An epic comedy show requires epic references, and here Helm recreates the pivotal scene from The Deerhunter, showing those Revells advertisers how to do it. This always feels like its about to come crashing off the rails, but Helm somehow keeps on track (if not quite to time).

Elsewhere, he has his own take on war poetry, pathetically offering subjugation if his girlfriend would only return. The breakup has clearly given him post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the less strident songs – performed with the aid of his backing band The Helmettes, aka David Trent, Chris Boyd and Pat Burtscher – concerns itself with the observational comedy staple of trying to leave the house in hurry as a couple, about which he can only reminisce.

A couple of the set pieces don’t have the impactful zing of his most intense moments, but how could they? A show that starts with such a bang needs quieter moments, before building back up to another impassioned finale.

Overall, This Means War is another full-on assault on the senses of humour, dignity and pathos. It ain’t pretty, but it is hilarious.

Review date: 16 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Dome

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