Pat Cahill: The Fisherman | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Jay Richardson
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Pat Cahill: The Fisherman

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Jay Richardson

Pat Cahill has an endearing habit of dismissing his previous shows as self-indulgent folly, promising something more mainstream, then reverting to his eccentric sensibility once again.

Mind you, The Fisherman is about his genuine passion. Passed down from father to son as a substitute for emotional engagement, fishing is portrayed by Cahill as a state of mind rather than a hobby, with the presence of fish almost an afterthought.

Likening the process to comedy, in that he casts his rod into the water with a variety of unlikely bait, fishing for him is also the working-class man's escape from his troubles into his imagination. 

So while his elderly drinking buddies argue the toss about Mary Quant's contributions to fashion and male desire, he's locked into his earphones and iPod, mashing up songs and distilling others down to their most distinctive parts. You'll never hear Enrique Iglesias the same way again. But you'll long to hear Michael Stipe on the theme tune to one of Britain's greatest sitcoms.

Perpetually casting doubt on this use of his time (and, indeed, on what's he done with his life), Cahill surrenders to melancholy when he accidentally kills a perch, channelling the bleak vocal style of Nick Cave's murder ballads. This, in turn, brings out his Black Dog, but there's a twist in the tale, because he's a hound of instant gratification rather than depression.

It leads to  a typically catchy tune from the comic as he bounces from foot to foot, in a rather joyful surf rock style, which in turn sets up a retreat into a poignant, formative childhood memory that Cahill later punctures with exquisite finality, undermining any tedious 'message' that the show might have sought to convey.

Elsewhere, there's a return to Nick Cave for why he can't pronounce a certain foodstuff; the hilarious encapsulation of his contemporary hangovers, a social gaffe from the night before repeated in escalating tones of disbelief; and an equally brilliant rock 'n' roll number about Brexit and supposedly nice things that turn out to be horrible, called Granny Got It Wrong.

Indeed, the songs remain the apex. Cahill's likening of the breeding habits of tropical fish he kept to a couple who shared his flat is deliberately tenuous, but no more amusing because of that. But his meandering division of fish into classes is leaden, slowing the nimble spring between routines he displays elsewhere.

Despite the deliberately bathetic final story, Cahill still contrives a brilliant, on-theme ending, which rather cannily encourages the crowd out of their seats for photos and an ovation. And while it's not entirely earned, it's instantly gratifying. The Fisherman is definitely worth catching.

Review date: 25 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson

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