Barry Castagnola: The Importance Of Not Being Too

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Barry Castagnola has had a life most ordinary, growing up in the suburbia around south-west London, enjoying football, collecting records and having a short-lived teenage flirtation with socialist activisim. Nothing spectacular there, and hardly, you would think, the basis on which you could sustain an hour-long show.

This neat Edinburgh offering came about while clearing out his old family home, which revealed a treasure trove of relics from his past, from swimming certificates to childhood diaries and home movies. From this simple childhood ephemera, Castagnola has crafted a delightfully enjoyable portrait of himself as a young man.

Occasionally, he dips into the "ZX Spectrums? Anyone remember them?" brand of superficial observational comedy, but what this show is really about is the self-deluded image he had of himself in his schooldays, contrasted with how life panned out ever since.

Mostly he's embarrassed by his younger self. He had a poor taste in music, that's a given, but also those daily journals reveal him to be a mildly homophobic royalist with a penchant for bad jokes ­ much to his disbelief and disgust today.

The selective amnesia he has about his youth, and the image he held in his mind of himself as a star footballer and one of the cool kids, is demolished by the evidence stacked up in crates in the spare rooms.

As this well constructed piece builds up the gentle anecdotes, the picture becomes sharper. There are plenty of laughs of recognition of our own naïve youths, and more at his expense. But more than that, is the self-awareness that dawns on Castagnola over the years giving the show a rich texture.

The show may be called The Importance Of Not Being Too Earnest, but it seems to be fairly honest, which is what makes it so enjoyable, further boosted by plenty of neat diversions along the way.

He pulls a dramatic rabbit out of the hat for the final act: nothing nearly as shocking as some of the confessionals you can find on the fringe, but more than enough to pack a final punch and complete the Jigsaw picture of the 18-year-old Barry.

To get here from a premise of a show about next-to-nothing is part of the delight in an assured offering that delivers far more than its modest promise might suggest.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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