Jarlath Regan: Arseways | Review by Jay Richardson
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Jarlath Regan: Arseways

Note: This review is from 2016

Review by Jay Richardson

Jarlath Regan isn't the first comic hitting his mid-thirties as a father to arrive at the conclusion that his parents were blagging it as authority figures.

But the London-based Irishman has effectively yoked this realisation to the fallout from the EU referendum, seeing the laissez-faire attitude of his mother towards her grandson's safety as analogous to that of the British Establishment's dereliction of duties over Brexit.

Still a relative newcomer to both the UK and parenting, Regan retains enough of an outsider's mentality to argue what genuine loss of independence entails, before making a defence of Ireland's gains under the European Union.

These range from adjusting his jovial preconceptions of British transport based on Thomas the Tank Engine, to highlighting the EU-backed system of checks and balances that Ireland has implemented, which would have challenged the more dubious claims and figures quoted in the referendum debate.

Fast and loose is how he summarises the conduct of that campaign, taking him back to the hands-off parenting of his Irish upbringing, when children were simply left to roam shopping centres, their parents secure in the knowledge that a Tannoy would appraise them of their whereabouts eventually. Regan is particularly funny here on the formal tone of such announcements, in stark contrast to the chaotic parlour game he envisions taking place behind the security office's closed doors.

Threatening to get serious for a moment, he recalls a late night phone call he received from his sister in Ireland while travelling back from a gig. Steeling himself for the worst, he's relieved to hear that the news isn't anything like as bad as he feared. Trifling in fact to a young man, save for the fact that he must now defend his pensionable father's new vice without seeming too supportive, lest he appear guilty by association.

An example of 'arseways' role-reversal, Regan now plays the indulgent parent to his sister's disciplinarian, it's reflective of his skill and growing maturity in picking apart the minutiae of relationships. This avails him of the sort of well observed and relatable battle of the sexes moments with his wife that are the bedrock of so many stand-up routines on mainstream television. But in his parents' failings of his brother, it also gives him the emotional pay-off to his hour as he's required to step up for the family.

Defending his father, with recourse to EU statistics no less, he also shows himself to be mentally and physically projecting an image of competency beyond his abilities. Lying about his health in order to attract sympathy from fellow gym-goers for his poor performance, his status as a self-employed businessman is similarly undermined when he shares the extent to which his defective home printer has routinely bested him in a battle of wits.

Trivial nonsense and affected irritation that strays from the familial stories that give heart to his hour, they're tonally quite different to the setup of his brother's situation.

But while the idiosyncrasies of the gym and frustrations with technology are familiar subjects, Regan has the gags to capitalise on their universality and the artfulness to make the transitions seem less jarring than they would otherwise have been. The result is a stitched together but still broadly satisfying cross between a personal Fringe show and a series of TV-ready spots.

Notably, while the affable, engaging comic recounts to his shame how he once tried to play the ignorant 'leprechaun' to avoid punishment in his fitness classes, his cuddly Celtic, nice-guy persona now seems less of an albatross, less easily dismissable.

Whether it's the burdens of encroaching middle-age and parental responsibility or simply living in oppressive Britain, he conveys more jaded authority on stage now, even sitting on a chair at one point as he patiently addresses his printer like a simpleton. Which makes his undermining of that authority, in his frank admissions of his failings, all the more appealing.

Review date: 24 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: PBH's Free Fringe @ Voodoo Rooms

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