Phil Kay: Branding The Ass Of A Heckler

Note: This review is from 2002

Review by Steve Bennett

Phil Kay used to have an air of excitement around him - a genuinely unpredictable comic who would spin brilliant improvised riffs from absolutely nothing.

But no more. He still ad-libs his entire show, but that spark has gone. Now there are extended periods of awkward ennui, only occasionally punctured by a flare of brilliance.

There's an air of arrogance about it - a contempt for your audience typified by the sections of the show where he stands silently on stage, gazing into the middle-distance, obviously wracking his brains to think of a new segment.

When he hits a fertile seam, he flies - on this night he conjured up an inspired routine about the Play School toys simply from the hissing of the bar's drinks pumps. But surely the room shouldn't have been quite so silent that this low-level noise was a distraction in the first place.

Too often his extended waffles lead down blind alleys and fail to engage the audience's imagination.

A couple of the routines had all the right elements - tales of Kay's bizarre encounters with the constabulary, for example - and could be fantastic, if given some focus.

Though it's an anathema for his whole style, perhaps Kay needs to write more, then rely on his keen improvisational brain to enhance proven material, rather than creating it anew each night. At least then he'd have something to use when, as frequently happens, he becomes lost for jokes.

He also over-runs terribly - annoying if you're on a tight Fringe timetable - so perhaps his other show, an open-ended affair at the Café Royal that usually runs to around two and a half hours, is better suited to his undisciplined style.

But given how frustrating this show was, with ten minutes of gold in an hour and a quarter, such a marathon performance could prove too demanding an ordeal.

Review date: 1 Jan 2002
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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