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Sean Hughes: Life Becomes Noises: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

The ‘dead dad’ show has become such a cliché of comedy, that even mentioning it has become another cliché of comedy, so aware are all concerned that the terminal ending lends pathos and heartfelt meaning to an hour of ha-has.

Nonetheless, Sean Hughes’s contribution to the ever-expanding genre is a welcome one; a strong piece of stand-up storytelling with laughs hewn from his family life. He fears this Fringe audience might be depressed by the prospect of an hour about death. Au contraire, we are anticipating it. Less expected are the more jovial elements of the show.

The familiar, if necessary, dramatic elements are all present and correct. Hughes never communicated properly with his dad – a hard-drinking gambling man – and proved a disappointment to him when he chose a career in comedy. Hughes Sr had his heart set on his son becoming a jockey, as if Sean ever had the figure for it.

However, Hughes is more matter-of-fact about his father’s passing than some of his more emotional colleagues, and the end passes almost incidentally… though the smart Irishman knows how to manipulate feelings if needs be; it’s all in the soundtrack.

Instead, the hour is more an honest assessment of a dysfunctional father-son relationship. There’s also some mention of chain-smoking, dim-witted mum, another far-from sympathetic character – but that dynamic seems destined for another show.

As seen in therapy rooms everywhere, Hughes employs glove puppets to describe uncomfortable situations, with dream sequences and unrealistic suggestions adding a mordantly surreal edge. Elsewhere his pin-sharp commentary and often lyrical use of language add a touch of classy, literate humour to the story.

But it’s not so poignant he forgets the funny, and for a comic who’s more recent outings have sometimes wallowed in middle-aged self-pity, there is a lightness of touch here, even when the subjects are heavy, such as musings why untested ‘miracle’ cancer cures aren’t given to the terminally – though, perhaps,  like many a distraught relative, he places rather too much hope on the pseudo-science of newspaper headlines.

The production is slick, with a few unexpected elements to match the unexpected sly playfulness which he couples to the thoughtful subject matter. In short, this is something of a return to form for Hughes.

Review date: 15 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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