Mick Sergeant: Ah Shit! It's Mick Sergeant
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2008
The unemployed Geordie anti-hero tries to stay positive while wrestling with the notion of identity.
Not so much stand-up comedy as stand-up tragedy, Mick Sergeant intends to give us all a pep talk about resilience, about how not to let life grind you down. But it soon becomes painfully clear that life has put poor Mick through the rinser. He lost his job, then his wife, then very nearly his mind in a breakdown he seems certain to recreate on stage. Itís a raw, visceral performance, and one thatís often rather too real and heart-rending to be funny.
Thatís testament to Lee Fenwickís abilities. For Sergeant is his creation, though thatís not immediately obvious to the uninitiated in the audience, so completely does the comic inhabit this broken man.
When Sergeant, a no-nonsense manís man as his moustache will attest, was made redundant from the Tyneside shipyards, his very identity was ripped from him. As wife Donna became the breadwinner he became emasculated, only to be further humiliated by the Job Centre staff who sent him on an endless string of pointless courses. He became, in Donnaís words Ďa depressing mix of frustration, disappointment and miseryí and she left him for a chemist called Arthur, taking the house and all their possessions with her. Itís fair to say Sergeant hasnít handled the break with mature dignity.
Sergeant is a proud man, and all this turmoil has taken its toll on him. He is drenched in the stench of failure, which he is trying to mask with the antiperspirant of hope. To that end heís been on a comedy course; hence his stint at Edinburgh. As you can probably tell from this detailed, but still prťcised, description, this is a complex, three-dimensional character Fenwick has created.
When most comics replay a scene in their set, its normally just the dialogue in slightly different voices. When Sergeant recreates his, itís a full-on Mike Leigh movie of released emotion.
All this layering of character does come at the expense of some comedy; and the laughs are quite well-spaced. But they tend to elicit good, strong chuckles when they do come. Partly because they emerge so naturally from Sergeantís character and plight, and partly from a sense of release from the maudlin outpourings of a broken man.
Some set pieces serve to up the gag rate, such as the self-penned and self-inspired example of erotic fiction, and the supposedly conciliatory letter he wrote to Arthur to get some of the rage out of his system. Although itís quite obvious thereís rather a lot of rage still left in there.
This is a full-formed creation, ready for the right vehicle, and a far cry from the exaggerated cartoon sterotype of a Geman techno band, Die Clatterschenkenfietermaus, that Fenwick was previously involved with. The show needs a slight tip of the balance from the tragic to the comic, but itís clear a great character is being born here.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett