A little bit old-school, a little bit new-school
Tom Ward is certainly one of the more distinctive comics among this year’s debutants. His Jarvis Cocker-ish indie swagger has already made him an eye-catching prospect, and his debut album, sorry, show, comes with a certain amount of expectation.
While it introduces Ward as a comic of real intrigue and potential, Sex, Snails and Cassette Tapes is lacking in killer blows. Unlike, say, Sophie Willan, who plays in the same room at the Pleasance, the show feels very bitty, a succession of fun and frivolous set pieces, which is tough to sustain for the full 60.
Even if the show falls a little short, it’s Ward himself that really sticks in the mind, and that counts for a lot. He’s hard to pin down. Despite the fashionista get-up, his humour daft is often reminiscent of Harry Hill, while there’s also a little bit of Brucey in there too, a little bit old-school.
Ward has kept the vibe loose and informal, which gives him room to demonstrate his charming way with an audience. The actual content of the show is hard to summarise as he flits from one thing to another like an impatient but well-dressed bee. There are routines on his strict religious upbringing during which pop music was banned, his flirtations with the gay scene, 80s music, and his sexual prowess (which isn’t the classiest section I’ve seen this Fringe). There are a few little game-lets, and a very funny Jools Holland impression that goes beyond the impression itself. His interpretation of what a friendly, dirty old man looks like is a gem.
The connections he makes between unlikely subjects, the directions his mind goes in, the fact he’s naturally funny on unusual subjects – it all points towards a genuinely creative, original comic mind. I like how he’s got one foot in the present, one in the past: a little nostalgic, yet totally contemporaneous. A “show and tell” debut like this suffices, but you get the feeling that if he had something to get his teeth into, a single subject, or a vehicle of some sort, his talent would flourish more. Maybe the slo-mo ADHD feel of Sex, Snails and Cassette Tapes is down to the fact that he doesn’t quite know what type of comic he is yet. That should come, and I’d like to be there when it does.
Review by Paul Fleckney