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Andrew O'Neill: Occult Comedian - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Having previously constructed shows around contrived big ideas – to greater or lesser success – Andrew O’Neill has this year finally chosen to concentrate on the things that seem to best define him: death metal, black magic and transvestism, even if they’re not exactly the sort of topics you might expect find on 8 Out Of 10 Cats or Mock The Week.

There’s clearly a very well-defined target audience for this sort of material. I’d probably call them goths, but after hearing O’Neill’s intricate breakdown of all the arcane sub-genres of metal music, I fear that would be a gross oversimplification.

But the skill is making these alternative subjects appeal to a wider audience, which O’Neill does with a combination of light-hearted honesty, an appreciation of the comic absurdity in many of the things he loves – not a goth’s default setting – and a keen sense of the utterly daft.

His longer pieces are punctuated by snatches of nonsensical songs, inventive puns, running gags and – best of all – lists of potential names for his children, pets and even an optician’s shop, which condense a lot of silliness into very few words.

On the occult, he somehow squares his belief in superstitious magik and moon goddesses with his natural propensity for rational atheism (though I’m still not quite sure how), but mainly this strand is an excuse to tell tales about Satanist Aleister Crowley’s strangeness – as well as recount his own experience on a London night bus that was weird even by London night bus standards.

On his cross-dressing, he explains patiently that it doesn’t make him homosexual – far from it, he boasts – while picking apart the transphobic abuse he regularly receive which, unsurprisingly, turns out to be remarkably easy given that people who shout such nonsense in the street are hardly likely to be the sharpest stilettos in the box.

Some of O’Neill’s targets in this lively and this fast-moving hour are exactly as expected, including the BNP and the Jonas Brothers, even if the viciousness of the attack surprises. But mainly it’s a fine combination of revealing his eccentricities, explaining them, and mocking them, all at once.

For despite his unusual tastes in clothes, music and belief systems, O’Neill is disarmingly approachable. He is the occultist transvestite grindcore fan you could take home to meet your mother.

Review date: 25 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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