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Mick Sergeant: Lifeboat - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Julia Chamberlain

This is great. Mick Sergeant is a superb creation, a character with a back story and a sense of existing beyond the confines of the 55-minute hour.

It's serious comedy and as like to make you wince with poignancy of his life as smile at his shaky optimism. Mick Sergeant is as iconic as Ange from Abigail's Party, in his way.

The intensity of this performance draws you in, Mick (Lee Fenwick) has an air of desperate control, from the militarily crispness of his shirt to his snappy martial arts moves, his eyes blazing with the fervour of a man who has confronted his demons and is willing you to believe he has won.

An unemployed shipbuilder since 1993, he mourns the loss of pride in the industry and the skills therein. He is rancorous about the colleagues who got out and retrained; better an unemployed shipwright than a Corgi registered plumber. He has been betrayed on two levels, but the industry and by his former friends.

This is not an harangue, although it would be easy to convert to a Speaker’s Corner style rant about the recession, unemployment, the patronising approach of the media, in particular the privileged celebrities who preach economy from the comfort of a three-storey house in Chelsea.

His gesture to lightening the mood, a game of musical chairs involving half the (small) audience provides a powerful and hilarious analogy about what happens when you become unemployed and the ludicrous attempts made to throw a positive light on being without a job: ‘Funemployment’.

Mick’s terms of reference from Bertrand Russell to Brian Sewell are indicators that the unemployed years have not been entirely squandered playing XBox and he’s a man clutching at self-improvement to get him beyond the twin blows of unemployment and divorce.

What is so brilliant is what he leaves unsaid for you to complete the picture yourself, the comedy that in the gap between his expectations and reality. His closing, silent portrayal of a day in the life of an unemployed man was for me extraordinarily powerful, amusing and heart-rending at the same time.

I don’t feel like I’ve done him justice, this is subtle and smart comedy with passion and integrity.

Review date: 11 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain

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