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Andrew O’Neill: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Distraction: the curse of every self-employed person, especially, it seems, the comedian. This is Andrew O’Neill’s show about his problems writing a show; the endless displacement activities that hold more allure than getting the work done and the limitless lure of the internet, constantly making nagging demands on his attention.

The structure of this hour mirrors his working practice: the  main thrust of his monologues interrupted by random thoughts and bits of physical business,  with little relation to reality, let alone the topic in hand. Yet these are usually the funniest bits: snatches of sung jokes, glimpses of a bizarre narrative well under way in his own mind, and the offputting buzz of an insect make for an enjoyably agitated start, like a metalhead Harry Hill.

But eventually the distractions die down as he eases into a couple of observational and anecdotal routines given an unusual twist. His letter of complaint to cotton-bud manufacturers ends in a preposterously overlong mime,  while a story of a spider in a swimming pool has a delightfully incongruous ending. All charmingly offbeat.

When he gets into meatier parts of the monologue, however, the laughs come a bit slower, however interesting it is. His musings on his identity as a transvestite – as well as the spectrum of people who share his predilection – is the prime example of this. Though he conjures up some entertaining images, such as the aggressively hetero alpha male, a common trope among the geekier comics, or the girl almost disabled by her poshness.

Ultimately he wonders whether being easily distracted is borderline ADHD, and whether he could get drugs such as Ritalin to control it – or would that somehow be losing an essence of  his personality? Kind of like a milder version of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Personally, I’d rather him embrace more of the distractions, as it’s the non sequiturs that keep the audience wrong-footed and add a spark to a show that already has substance. Although, admittedly, an hour of distractions might not be the easiest thing to watch.

Review date: 18 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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