Tony Law: Identifies | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Theatre, London
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Tony Law: Identifies

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Theatre, London

Tony Law’s at pains to point out he’s not like other comedians with their slick, structured shows that actually connect to their titles. ‘There’s no learning here, no feelings,’ he insists.

He jokes, too, about his lack of mainstream success, admitting he’s ‘not exactly a hot commod right now’ and wonders why he can’t get on telly .

But we – the ones who stay out late on a school night to watch a man with the dress sense of an Edwardian carnival barker make a noise like a tug-boat hooter when he runs out of ideas – we get him. We’ll take a punt on the quirky; a man who’s doing comedy because he can’t do anything else, not a career comic with a five-year plan. 

That, at least, is the casual, underground vibe the cheerfully eccentric 50-year-old Canadian is keen to engender, cult in every sense of the word as we are brought together around a charismatic leader, away from the rest of society.

Submit to his will and you will, indeed be transported to odd places in what seems like a chaotic stream of consciousness, but is more considered than he might let on. He’s certainly been a lot less disciplined than this before.

The more peculiar moments are driven by his strength of personality, but – as other reviewers have pointed out – there’s not much momentum. When he takes the foot of the gas, even for an instance there’s a lull. How do I know others have noticed this? Because he tells us. He’s strangely proud of it, too, commenting on other people’s comments serves to amplify the ridiculousness of this whole endeavour with every echo.

However from the morass of non-sequiturs, a more traditional, if still quirky, storytelling emerges, slowly sketching out a image of a life that’s the product of all his bad decisions as much as his heritage. Days are spent driving up and down the country for ill-paid gigs in front of audiences that don’t get him, or back home with his wife, twins and two incompatible pets in a far-too-small London flat. 

Yet there’s a happy acceptance of this existence, enjoying the real-life absurdity as much as the surrealism he conjures up from his head. For all the quips about not being BBC-ready, doing his own thing is life-affirming – and we can vicariously enjoy that freedom.

And for all his early protestations there even turns out to be a little acknowledgement of his identity. Garnished with plenty of comedy accents from Northern English to his mum’s native Trinidadian, this delve into the secrets of his DNA possibly explains his place outside the rest of homo sapiens.

Review date: 8 Nov 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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