Owen O'Neill: Stanza-Up Comedy

Note: This review is from 2003

Review by Steve Bennett

Even though the artforms are remarkably similar, a comedian doing poetry is normally approached with trepidation - as if the clown suddenly has pretensions of grandeur.

But pretentious doesn't sit easily with Owen O'Neill's style. He professes to hating the academic intellectualising that poetry has been saddled with, and is instead inspired by the likes of Liverpool beat poet Roger McGough.

As such, his poetry doesn't have much truck with meter or rhyme, instead concentrating on what he wants to say in the most incisive way; whether it covers the poignant, heartfelt despair of the Omah bomb, or a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Mick Jagger. The topics sure are varied, and O'Neill's not afraid of a spot of bathos.

He brings stand-up sensibilities to the show, too. Many of the poems revolve around witty observations and jokes that wouldn't be out of place in his normal set, but fitted into a slightly more formalised form. However, it would be hard to cover the early deaths of his alcoholic father and cancer-stricken mother in anything billed as pure comedy.

His animated, passionate performance also brings the material to life, and audience banter and little routines put each piece into the perfect context.

It's not all poetry, though, and O'Neill includes a sizeable stand-up section, recounting a fabulous extended anecdote as his first day as a labourer, working alongside a terrifying sausage-munching madman.

It all combines to make a warm, rounded afternoon of funny, intelligent and thought-provoking entertainment; a brilliant Fringe experience.

Review date: 1 Jan 2003
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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