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Dan Atkinson: Death by a Thousand Pricks - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

The previously shambolic Dan Atkinson has discovered a new sense of purpose with his 2009 Fringe show, delivering an impassioned argument against emotional repression.

It’s a very English trait, and one that he gets angry about in himself: Why does he make polite dinner-party chit-chat when he wants to be childish and spontaneous? Why does he meekly comply with his Tory MP landlady? Why is he too spineless to end a relationship?

In the confines of a comedy show, he’s confident to be playful and cast aside society’s conventions, which makes for an irrepressibly spirited hour. But in the outside world? Why, that’s a different story.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was his broken clock-radio, which means he awakens to a banal phone-in every morning, with feckless idiots filling his ears with their illogical, bigoted opinions. That made him so angry he decided to confront their numbskullery – by recording the calls and playing them during this show, for mocking purposes. Granted, it’s not exactly the direct action he appears to be urging, but it’s a step in the right direction.

As the hour progresses he gets more inflamed and more confident, his spirited rhetoric increasingly chiming with the audience. But then it’s not hard to find support in a festival audience when you’re telling them to drink more because inhibitions SHOULD be cast away. National traits and drinking tales may not seem the most imaginative of stand-up topics, but framing them in the context of this rant gives them meaningful bite.

His increasingly wide-ranging argument – which maybe shouldn’t be probed too closely in case it comes crashing down like a pack of cards – encourages a sense of fun, making for a thoroughly enjoyable ride . There are some nice jokes peppering the diatribe, too, though it’s not exactly perfect that his recounting of the ‘Are you a gay tied to a tree?’ playground taunt gets one of the biggest laughs of the evening. But at least it’s in the childish spirit he’s trying to foster.

Atkinson offers a refreshing blast of witty energy, powering his oratory. His ultimate message might be that you shouldn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. But I think he’s rather good.

Review date: 13 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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