Steve Bugeja: Day Release | Review by Steve Bennett
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Steve Bugeja: Day Release

Review by Steve Bennett

Steve Bugeja is the biggest buzz-kill square since Tiananmen. An awkward, risk-averse, grade A nerd who wears a knitted jumper when dragged on a reluctant trip to a lap-dancing club – because Chess Club is more his scene. Think Will from The Inbetweeners, but maybe even less cool. And when you learn his mum is a Milf, that impression is cemented.

This is all established in a brisk, hilarious ‘top ten things about me…’ introduction at the start; though to be honest you don’t need ten. His unworldlyness is evident before he says a word, from his self-conscious demeanour to his excitedly shrill self-analytical asides, very much in the Mark Watson mode.

He is a virginal omega-male uncomfortable in an alpha-male world. A discomfort heightened when he encounters someone far from his usual sphere of influence: the father of his schoolyard crush, who happens to have spent the last 18 years behind bars. What’s more, Bugeja finds himself agreeing to drive him from the prison to his daughter’s wedding. Chalk, meet cheese…

This is the story of the trepidatious build-up to that meeting, and what transpired when they had to share a car journey. It’s a set-up straight out of a scriptwriters’ handbook, but none the worse for that when it’s as deftly executed as it is here.

The 2013 BBC New Comedy Award winner packs the hour with solid gags coming from the place of a well-defined persona. The script in the first half is drum-tight, as if polished by a sitcom writers’ room to cram as many jokes in as humanly possible. The laughs take a little more of a back seat in the second half, but by that point, we’re so invested in the story and the characters, that the narrative and fleshing out the personalities is what’s paramount. And if there’s a slightly cliched ending with its emotive soundtrack and life lesson, that’s easily forgiven for such a well-built story.

Bugeja previously seemed to be something of a journeyman comic, but this assured debut proves that to be an underestimation –  as he demonstrates himself more than capable of a work of substance, which puts gags front and centre of a compelling narrative featuring well-drawn characters.

Review date: 10 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Just the Tonic at The Mash House

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