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Simon Evans: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Jay Richardson

Erudite, articulate and as supercilious as ever, and yet for once unsettled, Simon Evans promises ‘just a little anger’ in his show this year. Hammering a rat to death seems an extreme way of expressing it.

But after a casual insult of the Scots in the audience, securing his jacket on the archaic ‘filch’ stick he’s brought for the purpose and slowly pouring himself a stiff drink, the gloves are most definitely off, for a much more personal performance. The clawhammer episode is only one instance where Evans has forsaken his right to be a good example to his children. Yet he surveys modern life for surrogate role models in vain.

The mantle he can assume is that of spokesperson for ‘ordinary, decent taxpayers’, by which he means affluent middle-class Middle England. Grateful to football for preoccupying the lower orders on a weekend, he undergoes a field trip to Chelsea FC and conducts an anthropomorphic assessment of its captain, the much disgraced John Terry, prompting a wonderful analogy between asbestos and Eighties racism. Hen nights, Australians and the theme parks of Florida are dismissed for their vulgarity, though it’s seldom for the most obvious reasons and he deploys some imaginative, harshly effective metaphors.

His perhaps more genuine liberal sympathies tend to emerge every now and then, with his depiction of Boris Johnson’s recent mishap on a zip wire too delicious to resist and a critique of the biggest perceived threat to the Republican Party in the US archly mocked. Over the course of an hour, he keeps his persona inconsistently interesting – his enjoyment of once living in Brixton enhanced by a feature that’s both easy stereotyping and of seemingly unlikely interest to a dufferish square like himself.

A masterful command of language enhances relaxed set-ups that invariably deliver on their gradual build-up with a flash of acidic wit and the slyest sarcasm. This is Evans’s metier and it’s only when he stretches beyond it that he’s less assured.

His efforts to pass on to his son his admiration for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s old-fashioned heroism are endearing. And he qualifies the cosy bedtime scene by acknowledging the Dutch courage he needs to get through it.

But identifying personal, emotional truths are not Evans’ strong point and the artifice of the anecdote, however much derived from reality, feels awkward after what’s come before. Regardless, it’s a welcome direction for this incisive comic to pursue.

Review date: 24 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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