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Liam Williams [Fringe 2013]

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

It often seems like Liam Williams doesn’t really want to be a stand-up at all. Not so much because of his plaintive deadpan – that’s just the lethargic despair gnawing at the very heart of his being – but because his semi-detached style, ensuring every word is ‘just so’, is more like a book reading than the faux conversation normally associated with the artform.

Indeed, he seems happiest with a prop, reading from his poetry collection, and alleged Time Out list of increasingly odd dating ideas for Londoners, and his, as-yet unpublished novel, inspired by/ripped off from Catcher In The Rye.

Yet it’s understandable he’s so careful to make sure his show is exactly as written, for he has an exceptional talent with language, with elegiac, verbose prose that is both lyrically evocative, and subtly undermined by deploying a perfectly flat word just at the right moment. Williams is to writing what Les Dawson is to piano-playing – you can’t parody it this well unless you’re a maestro on the sly.

These talents are used to paint a bleak picture of his hand-to-mouth existence as a struggling, lazy comedian, shambling his way through life as a comedy dilettante, supported by his middle-class parents and the ghost of his dead grandfather. By rights he should be sucking the life out of the room, but the lyrical wordcraft converts this melancholic inertia into solid laughs.

The purple prose provides a morose narrative to his life to date, interspersed with set-piece sketches, such as that typically smart dating article. But the proposed BBC Four documentary about the ‘Henrietta’ period of British history misfires, and doesn’t really fit here, although one or two lines stand out. Perhaps it’s a lost scene from the Sheeps sketch group, of which he is also part.

Back on the morose existential angst, though, and we’re laughing again, not so much at his misery, but the way he expresses it. By rights, this sort of sophisticated, low-key self-examination is not the sort of show you’d expect to shine in an 10.20pm slot in the basement of a rowdy studenty pub. But shine it does, thanks to the assured skill of this most promising of Fringe debutants.

Review date: 18 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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