Nick Wilty: Incident Prone

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

There’s an astounding show to be had from Nick Wilty’s experiences as a Falklands war veteran, but he seems unsure quite how to unlock it.

Wilty is a gripping storyteller, but doesn’t trust his own instinct. After so many years on the circuit, he appears uncomfortable with the silence of rapt attention, so keeps reaching back to his box of silly gags to get reassuring laughs. As a consequence, he only hints at the emotions of being in battle, and of returning to the scene 25 years later.

Such a serious story can be told with wit, although no one can pretend it would be easy. But rather than working out quite how to do this, perhaps with the aid of an assured director, Wilty tends to flip back to his club set about his globetrotting exploits, rich with quickfire jokes. It’s funny, but less satisfying.

The key to the show is demonstrated not in the Falklands material, but in his recounting of the time he was travelling on a bus that got hijacked in Belize. In the first telling, it’s the set-up to a couple of quick punchlines. Second time around, he describes what actually happened in full, terrifying detail – and it packs quite a punch. Combining the two is the key to success.

Wilty doesn’t waste much time in telling us of his role in the Falklands, giving a honest insight into what it is actually like to personally enter a war. Then, back in the UK, he quickly got bored. His Army days, he figures, gave him a lust for adventure, and he started travelling the world, doing whatever was needed to pay for the next adventure: from sleeping rough in New York to working in a tough gay bar in New Zealand or fishing for sharks.

It’s definitely stand-up set, heavy on the gags with no excuse to squeeze a cheeky laugh squandered. He delivers them expertly, too, even though it still has the feel of a routine designed to appease a large, rowdy, comedy club crowd with short attention spans than an unfairly under-attended room of patient Fringe-goers.

After whisking through his travels, the Falklands are revisited, both metaphorically and physically, for the recent 25th anniversary commemorations. Although the actual event turned out to be quite messily ill-organised, it gave Wilty – and his story – closure.

I wish this had been a preview, rather than the last weekend of the Fringe, as it’s got all the elements of a sublime, astonishing show, but still in need of considerable attention. As it stands, it’s still a funny hour in the fabulous company of an always likeable comedian – and that’s still good value in anyone’s book.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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