Peter Flanagan: Meditations | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Peter Flanagan: Meditations

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Peter Flanagan’s show about putting his life back together after the pandemic is a worthy lesson in relaxed storytelling.

If you’d blindly ordered an Irish comic, you would probably find Peter Flanagan in the parcel – smiling, self-deprecating, gingery, easy-listening. He paints a great picture of the bleakness of Kildare, his Catholic, conservative parents, the deadweight of expectation and his anxiety since childhood, exacerbated by a year of lockdown.

He makes a break for it to London, for stand-up and an end to celibacy.  It’s as though he’s re-written the tragic style and subject matter of Edna O’Brien for comedic purpose as a challenge and won.

He started the show with crowdwork, a clubby thing to do in a festival show, joshing with the not-a-couple in the front row, finding the English/the Scots/the Irish. Just when I felt I’d had enough of compere shtick, he stopped it and with positive, attentive energy established in the room, the storytelling took over.

He announced the themes and structure of the show: Ireland, Buddhism, a sex story. It’s a traditional formula: tell them what you’re going to say, tell them, tell them you’ve told them, and it worked. In fact the show was more subtle with some sharply funny observations about, among other things, the Irish and cocaine, Irish stereotypes and differences between Irish-English and English-English comedy.

For someone frequently referencing anxiety, he had remarkable composure describing some wobbly childhood experiences bad dates and bad gigs once he arrived in England.  He did well not to be put off his stride by an attention-seeking, fidgety audience member who ‘awwed’ and ‘oohed’ and vocalised a reaction even at the set-up rather than the tag on many jokes. It’s not panto. Of course, it turned out to be another performer. Unforgivable.  ‘I thought I was helping.’ Well you weren’t.

Flanagan weaved his experience with Buddhism through the stories and stand-up. The storytelling is great, some of the gags are not worthy of him, but they are delivered with warmth and shamrock panache that you’ll go with it.

This was creditable first Edinburgh. I was pleased to see club-style comedy mixed in there where entertaining the audience is foregrounded over a contrived story.

Review date: 19 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain
Reviewed at: Just the Tonic at The Mash House

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