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Stephen Carlin: The Podium of Unconditional Surrender

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Marissa Burgess

Stephen Carlin has a prime slot in the least showbiz of the rooms at The Stand. It’s a scenario that seems fitting as he has the demeanour of a man that life has handed out gifts with one hand and taken them away with the other. Plus it provides him with some nicely self-deprecating intro humour: ‘Welcome to Stand 4, or "that poky little room" as my mum calls it.’

It’s actually a nice little room, a cosily intimate venue in which to see one of the most inventive stand-ups on the Fringe. This year’s show doesn’t disappoint as it’s a delightfully shambling, apparently unconnected, collection of material.

His tale begins (and pretty much ends too) with a trip to see Buzz Aldrin at the Royal Festival Hall. Carlin is a little disappointed that Aldrin looked just like a man rather than a man that had been to the moon (whatever one of those would look like, he notes) and to compound it, Aldrin had showed the audience pictures of his cats.

In between are a disparate set of topics – his father’s annoying habit of putting ‘s’ on words, the bad combination that is double-decker buses and low bridges, the Protect and Survive nuclear war public information film of the Eighties, and Aberdeen fairgrounds.

The hour then culminates in possibly the most tenuous, knowingly cynical and hilarious round-up of any show this festival.

Carlin’s sense of the surreal, seen frequently in previous work, is still very much in evidence; the ordinary meets the extraordinary in such routines where black magic is accidentally threatened in Argos

His other trademark quality of pedantry seems to have come down a notch though there is still some in evidence gently grumbling under the surface., while his delivery, once monotone, now seems quite animated – or as animated as the delightfully deadpan Scot is likely to get, anyway.

Review date: 19 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Marissa Burgess

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