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Paul McCaffrey: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Corry Shaw

It is a delight to witness someone realise their potential in a Fringe show, it is an even bigger delight when they do so facing trying circumstances.

Paul McCaffrey returns to Edinburgh with his second hour, and an attempt at a showbiz entrance complete with smoke machine and tambourine. This is a grand start to treat the tiny preview audience, if at odds with McCaffreys everyman, salt-of-the-earth persona. If he is fazed by the disappointing numbers he does a brilliant job of hiding it, just acknowledging the empty seats and ploughing on, impressively presenting the show with the relaxed, assured confidence of a stadium filler.

Perhaps this charming swagger has been borrowed from his heroes, Bobby Gillespie and Liam Gallagher – but McCaffrey has them beaten hands-down on likeability. His enthusiasm for these performers and music festivals is infectious and as he guides us through the story of reuniting ‘the lads’ to revisit the festivals of their youth, some members of the audience can’t help but get swept up in the vibe and offer festival tales of their own, sometimes unbidden but seemingly always welcomed by McCaffrey.

He has managed to achieve something quite special with his delivery. There is a comfortable familiarity to his style, his interactions with the audience are genuine, non-threatening and relaxed to the point where some of them leave the gig thinking they may have a new best mate. But he never loses focus or control of the room, his narrative stays on point and interruptions and hiccups are woven seamlessly into the story.

The main tale has some obvious jokes and topics but McCaffrey seems astounded that his once laddish mates have become less rebellious in their thirties, that these soon-to-be middle-aged men no longer want to survive a weekend in a field with nothing other than beer and a bucket load of drugs to sustain them, and his genuine infuriation at this revelation leads to some original slants on the topic of growing up.

We get some real insights into McCaffreys mind as he tells tales of his struggle with the real world away from the muddy fields of the festivals. He admits to being sensitive, not the fluffy modern man good kind of sensitive, but the ‘I’ll hunt you down and hurt you if you annoy me’ variety. But despite his brutal honesty in exposing some unpleasant personality traits – his road rage, his refusal to be the brunt of any joke, the ‘list’ of people he has it in for – it is almost impossible to dislike him.  He has a warmth and vulnerability behind the druggy raver facade and so long as it’s him making the jokes, he is perfectly comfortable being the brunt after all.

His comedy is natural, free-flowing and accessible. There are no gags, no puns, no clunky links, every story, every deviation feels honest, unexaggerated and heartfelt.

McCaffrey has been criticised in the past for lacking punchlines and indeed if it wasn’t for the complex and technical finale you’d assume he’d just thrown the comedy rulebook out the window, but who needs punchlines when you have got a brilliantly entertaining hour full of laughs, beautifully delivered by an act who should be destined to headline the main stage?

Review date: 3 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Corry Shaw
Reviewed at: Underbelly Bristo Square

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