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Danny Ward: Pressure Point

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Corry Shaw

There are a few traps that can entangle acts bringing their debut hour to Edinburgh, and the biggest killer can be 'theming'. Having one central concept can be a good idea, but crowbarring a theme around existing material can be a distraction.

Danny Ward has these issues with Pressure Point, which becomes almost inescapably snarled up with a heap of humourless admin in the first five minutes as he sets up the premise from which the rest of the show will hang loosely.

Recently diagnosed with high blood pressure, Ward explains that his anxieties and fears have affected his life, but he has found coping strategies so his fretfulness won't rub off on to others. To prove his point he has several members of the audience record their blood pressure at the start and the end of the hour to illustrate that laughter is the best medicine. A flawed experiment, which backfired tonight.

However, once the clunky admin is over Ward begins to find his flow. Stylistically he is an oddity, his staccato offerings of heavily scripted rants and catchphrases often lead him to trip over words or race ahead of himself. Initially the delivery is jarring but as the ear adapts it becomes clear that this style very much lends itself to Ward’s jumpy persona and storytelling.

Ward explains that purchasing an iPad fuelled his fears, as  each new anxious disorder he learned about online became part of his self-diagnosis. There are some basic observational jokes about BT being rubbish, emergency locksmiths being expensive and coach travel not being enjoyable, but each hackneyed topic gets a bit of fresh sparkle as Ward introduces us to some recurring ideas about his coping systems (mainly Nichiren Buddhist chanting and maths).

Once past the obvious and general, Ward shows his true strengths by focussing on his unique lifestyle. He has had no fixed abode for the last two years and is currently residing in his aunt’s conservatory. His talent for storytelling shines when it becomes introspective, and tales of trips to Teapot Island and Asda are real highlights. His angst and despair climax when he sees former classmate and now Labour MP Chuka Umunna on Newsnight debating the economy with Ken Clark while Ward is sleeping on a lilo. Despite the bleakness of the situation and his clear underdog status Ward manages to keep each complaint, each tale of hardship, upbeat and witty. His misery doesn't seep into the audience – but that’s thanks to his skill as a narrator.

The climax stretches his theme to the limit, with Ward explaining that he uses shopping as a coping strategy, a gateway to the well-worn comic road of pound shops, Lidl and the random things you can buy there. It’s possibly a ploy to introduce some props, possibly just some padding to fill the hour, but it very much feels like unnecessary lighthearted fluff after the real body of the show and before the obligatory admin of those final blood pressure readings.

He does the job, but if Ward had focused more of his anxious energy on the meat of the show and less on the heavy-handed theming, he would have less criticism to worry about.

Review date: 2 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Corry Shaw

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