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Nick Mohammed is Mr Swallow: 2012
Oh Lord, look who's back! From the critically acclaimed star of Radio 4, BBC2's Life's Too Short and triple-Bafta-nominated sketch show Sorry, I've Got No Head. Nick will soon be appearing as a lead in new Sky comedy, Gates, and is currently developing Mr. Swallow for BBC Television along with a fourth Radio 4 series.
Nick Mohammed: Fringe 2012
Here Nick Mohammed takes the character comedy rulebook and rips it apart, taking special care to pulverise page one, which deems it necessary that any fictional creation should be entirely consistent.
But Mr Swallow is far from. Superficially he is a mild-mannered, easily distracted, marginally feminine and entirely ineffectual corporate trainer, promising us an hour-long seminar on another ‘restricting theme’ – in this case, numbers.
Yet while Mr Swallow seems an affable cove out of his depth but trying hard, ultimately Mohammed cannot hide his incandescent light under this bushel of a man – and impresses with some jaw-droppingly impressive feats of dextrous mental arithmetic and other surprises. It’s an extraordinary performance that’s two parts Rob Brydon to one part Derren Brown.
The show starts as we arrive, with Mr Swallow fussily checking his props and arranging the audience, making sure all is ‘just so’ for the lecture – which is perfectly pitched at a mixed-ability group, but will especially rock your boat if you’re the sort of maths geek who knows what a Fibonacci sequence is. The only lowest common denominator here is to do with fractions.
Still, you don’t have to be Rachel Riley to understand his fear of the number 13, distrust of the concept of infinity, or rigorous analysis of the 12 Days of Christmas and the logistical nightmare the ever-spiralling number of gifts would cause a modestly camp public speaker. Talking of Countdown, Mr Swallow has a go at the numbers round – with a result far from what you’d expect.
While the set pieces are memorable, the joy is really in the little things – dismissing the centigrade scale in a couple of sentences, posing unanswerable questions with misleading wording and appearing slightly forgetful (‘Do I mean orthodontist?’) And keep a close eye on the PowerPoint screen for the occasional ‘outtake’ slide that really shouldn’t be there. This is a show you wish you could watch on DVD, so you could pause such moments to take in every incidental joke.
Talking of detail, Mohammed certainly captures the idiosyncrasies of the only other character he introduces, an accountant who rambles on incessantly. She outstays her welcome, which is both the whole joke of the interlude, and its downfall. Curse Mohammed’s comic jiggery-pokery.
That aside, Mr Swallow builds to a hugely impressive pay-off to a hugely impressive show. You can certainly see why the BBC are interested in developing a show based around the character.
|Date of live review: Saturday 25th Aug, '12|
Review by Steve Bennett
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