Liam Williams – Edinburgh Fringe review

A gloriously gloomy start from debutant Liam Williams

Liam WilliamsDownbeat anti-lad Liam Williams has honed and nearly perfected the art of the angst-ridden young man. And he is actually funny as well. His lo-fi blend of puns, put-downs and pained anecdotes sends-up the stereotype of the tortured soul and belies the fact that he is just 25 years old.

“Ok here’s the first joke. I hope you enjoy it”, begins the lethargic Williams. “The universe implodes. No matter.”

With that he sets off on a sullen tour of his unremarkable life. It takes in typical teenage reading, JD Salinger and TS Eliot, a spoof historical lecture, covering Britain’s “Henrietta period”, and an insight into the first-world problems which dog his daily existence.

The history section doesn’t quite work, and at times the show veers towards self-indulgence, but Williams is sufficiently self-aware to avoid falling into the disdainful and repetitive riffs that have come to characterise the performances of another depressive, Jack Dee.

Instead Williams regrets the fact of a “very average upbringing” which left him with little genuine pain on which he can draw for his act. In the absence of hardship, however, he skilfully undermines modern media, culture and the pretentious hipsterism of London life, describing a new venue as a “cool warehouse space which used to be a theatre”.

Williams, also known for his role as one-third of sketch group Sheeps, has a skill with words that carries him through some of the weaker moments. You suspect that this, his solo Edinburgh debut, took months of intensive work to put together. It avoids appearing contrived, however, and Williams combines skilful writing with a suitably deadpan delivery so that even his response to heckles – “I didn’t get into comedy because I wanted more two-way conversations” – retains the tone of his weary character.

The challenge will be to see if Williams can sustain this type of “vintage sadness” over the course of a whole career. It is, however, a gloriously gloomy start.

4 star

Review written by Peter Edwards

• Liam Williams is at Just the Tonic Caves at 10.20pm

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