Interesting. Veeeery interesting
The Malcolm Hardee award for “Act Most Likely To Make a Million Quid’ has a new favourite. As people file out of Brennan Reece’s show, there’s a queue to take a selfie with him. Over the previous hour he’s charmed his packed room into submission – in fact it took about 30 seconds at the top of the show to win them over. From that point on, he could’ve said anything, the audience was constantly teetering on the edge of laughing, all he had to do was give them a little nudge.
It’s the sort of thing you see from comics far bigger than him, which is why it’s so notable. Maybe he hasn’t had a selfie queue after every show this Fringe, but even so, I can see why it happened. His show, Everglow, (even that title has the sheen of a pop star’s album to it) is home-spun, feel-good and accessible, and might be bad news for Russell Howard, whom Reece resembles most as a comic. His style is certainly Howard-esque, with much of his time spent caricaturing his mum, dad and siblings, albeit affectionately. I can also imagine him being a hit with the mums (and their daughters), in much the same way Howard is, Reece having a “sweet boy next door” quality to him. In his more chatty, manic moments there’s a bit of Russell Kane to him, and I detect a little Victoria Wood in there too (and not just because of his Lancastrian accent).
The show is mainly about growing up with a doting mum and a strong, silent dad, with siblings who have too many children by too many partners. He, and those around him, have been forced into adulthood too quickly and are consequently rattled, and making mistakes. For Reece in particular he’s trying to pick his way through a macho culture, and find a decent route to becoming a man that doesn’t involve emulating men in porn films, or “no-neck-a-hedrons” at the gym.
I felt quite out of place in not being swept along by it. Everflow is certainly impressive – it is dense with jokes (of varying quality), it’s performed with consummate ease, it rips along at a good pace, it’s structurally strong as the Forth bridge, it builds to a climax … all very impressive, but I hardly laughed.
It wasn’t just some of the writing that fatally undermined it (“a face as cracked as a teenage girl’s iPhone screen” is lame), it felt over-rehearsed to me, almost too much like a text-book Edinburgh show. That’s quite a churlish complaint to make, and I don’t mind a bit of polish to a show, but it somehow didn’t feel natural, and this is vital to the contract between performer and audience. To me it felt contrived, like it was trying too hard to be what it was. The worst offence in this sense was the ending, which was accompanied by some heart-string-tugging music and a home video of him as a child with his parents. That only confirmed my feeling of being rather manipulated.
Reece will finish this Fringe being the new favourite comic of many people who see him. But while Everglow is in many ways the full package, but it didn’t make me smile on the inside.
Review by Paul Fleckney