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William Andrews: Nitwit - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Some things are so out-and-out bonkers that the star system of reviews seems hopelessly inadequate. In keeping with the nonsense that is William Andrews’s deranged show, we might as well rate it ‘mauve’ as allocate marks out of five.

But follow convention we must, and sad to report that this ramshackle multimedia hybrid just doesn’t come off – however much you might want it to.

Andrews, one half of last year’s lovely Will and Greg sketch show, is an endearing performer, bringing to the stage a vulnerable, distracted style that remains naturalistic whatever odd things he may be doing. It means you humour his innocence, so that even when he gaffer-tapes his chunky microphone to his head – creating what looks like an early prototype of the Madonna-style cheek mic – for the duration, it seems almost normal.

But behind that unfocussed exterior, Andrews is clearly a sharp operator, as proved by the split-second timing he needs to interact with the screen on the front of his centre-stage box of tricks. It projects some of the usual Flash/PowerPoint trickery, and sometimes becomes another character in a sketch, such as the drunk and helpless nightclubber – played by a videotaped Anna Crilly – which he awkwardly takes home in one realistically unsatisfying scene.

The box also contains a record-player, on which he plays us a couple of charity-box finds by Mister Rogers and Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart, in a stand-uppy segment about the former Crackerjack host’s shockingly young wife. I could list everything Andrews did or spoke about, but it would simply be a catalogue of meaningless, unconnected ideas, hard to make much sense of – which is why the audience was largely left baffled.

When he pulled out his canister of jokes (literally), he does get a few laughs, but deliberately performs them like a faltering nerve-crippled open spot, killing them dead. A few other scenes almost shine, such as the Dambusters spoof rendered unintelligible under the weight of clipped vowels; while the silly big finale is almost worth an extra star on its own, but it was rushed and misfired.

Within minutes of this mish-mash of a show ending, the publicist emailed to tell me this had been was an off-night, and asked if that could be taken into consideration… although I don’t think reviewing a hypothetically better version of actual performances will really catch on.

But I share that information, as it is quite possible Andrews is a misunderstood genius, struggling to express himself with consistency. For there is something about him – but whatever it is, it’s just not that reliably funny on the evidence of this show.

Review date: 13 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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