Review – James Acaster, Recognise

Another strong and original showing from Acaster, who pulls a few surprises out

James Acaster comedian

James Acaster is likeable, frustrating and geeky. Many of the crowd at Edinburgh’s Fringe will already know that because his petty, acerbic onstage persona has won him nominations for the main Foster’s award over the past two years.

What people won’t know, however, is that Acaster is also an undercover cop who goes by the name of Pat Springleaf. It is this revelation – and the fact that is Springleaf’s police boss is also masquerading as a comedy booker – that gives a real fillip to his show.

But more of that later. Before we meet Springleaf, Acaster walks us through his obsessions and fantasies. These range from the mundane, such his humiliation at being criticised for taking a “free” banana from Pret a Manger (it wasn’t as free as he thought), to the life of early mathematicians, such as Pythagoras (“every triangle is a love triangle when you love triangles”).

Acaster revels in his pedantry – and it works. Of course, he is still harsh in his deconstructions of the stuff of everyday life, like shopping, schmoozing and the tics of ordinary speech, but it is with the tales of his alter ego that his show moves up a level.

Acaster – sorry, Springleaf – as he calls himself, has worked his way into a drugs gang. “I wanted to be an undercover cop – but I didn’t tell anyone,” he deadpans. It is serious stuff, indeed, it’s too serious for the nerdy Acaster, who finds himself on the brink of giving the game away.

His playback of an undercover recording of “the gang” is brilliant and he has an inventive, fast-paced finale. With his geometric charts, surreal callbacks and the playing out of his own geeky personality, Acaster has found a winning formula.

Review by Peter Edwards

James Acaster, Recognise is at 8pm at the Pleasance Courtyard

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