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Matthew Highton’s Shadowed Vagary

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Let’s get the obvious comparison out of the way first; there is a touch of Noel Fielding about Matthew Highton’s charmingly surreal adventure of how his crush on an office receptionist ended up as a battle for the future of the planet.

But although the influence is there, Highton is his own man, with a tall tale that establishes him as a engaging storyteller with a head for witty fantasy. However his world is not entirely fanciful, as one of his strengths is that for a yarn that involves a murderous Patrick Moore, miniature hadron colliders and Mickey Rourke’s peacock with its beguiling feathers, he does at least begin in a credible reality.

Before we embark on our adventures, Highton engages in a little audience warm-up, in which he’s called to deal with an annoyingly gobby woman in the front row, ‘helping’ with her ‘useful’ contributions after almost every freaking sentence. He dealt with her with grace and good humour, though a firmer hand should have been employed later, as he couldn’t quite get her to shut up. Still he has a appealing way with the audience in general, as he warmly delivers segments of universal stand-up on subjects such as working in a dead-end job, while introducing some of the more unusual details he’ll call upon later.

The narrative flicks between the potentially real and the definitely unreal, as he drops in ideas both pettily silly and ambitiously inventive and film references, both subtle and blindingly obvious, to help drive along the increasingly improbable escapade. He sometimes gets too self-indulgent, with sections such as the David Bowie poses crying out for being reined in, but mostly keeps things on track.

The conclusion, too, is a bit clumsy; an over-elaborate denouement that abandons any slight hope that you may still be suspending your disbelief as he calls back to so much that’s gone before that it becomes clunky.

So it’s a flawed debut hour, but a clear flag in the ground to signal his intention as a comic who tries something different. The promise Highton has is obvious, and it should only take minor adjustments for him to ensure the balance between flights of fantasy and a tight show is tipped in favour of the latter – then he could have something quite special.

Review date: 24 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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