Matthew Kelly the Musical – Edinburgh Festival review

Some sparkling improv saves what was an occasionally gruelling hour from Matthew Kelly

Matthew_Kelly1Bewigged with a massive beehive Afro and adorned with a glitter goatee, Matthew Kelly (played by Karl Schultz) sashays his way through his set in a kind of disaffected malaise. With his languorous air and deadpan delivery, he’s a very good performer, and at times very funny. His humour is crafted on the awkward-so-it’s-funny model, which seems to be more popular now than ever before. Sitting beside you to offer advice, calling you up onstage to appreciate his Descartes impression, calling you up onstage to give you life coaching – Kelly’s routine revolves around his making his audience squirm, and if you’re not fond of the spotlight yourself, it’s inadvisable you see this show.

He’s not a one trick pony, nor are his encounters with his public mean or malicious. For all his languid demeanour, he’s quick on his comebacks – and it was in the brilliance of some of his ripostes that the potential of this kind of haphazard unscripted character-driven comedy really started to sparkle. The unexplained absurdity of his creation, the misnomer of the title (there’s no music involved), the obscure topics of conversation – all this makes for a strangely compelling stage presence.

As a show, however, it’s still largely lacking and it begins to take its toll – ultimately there is not enough material to warrant an hour. The second half predominantly centred around one unlucky audience member, whose life was put up for inspection – and while there was no nastiness about it, and there were many funny moments (particularly a good angel/bad angel dialogue), its success was almost certainly down to this particular individual, who remained unflustered, took it on the chin, and had more than a few things to say for himself. When a less capable audience member is called upon, I imagine a lead balloon would float better.

Matthew Kelly is a wonderful performer and it will be exciting to see how his act develops. Currently he’s got the character but not the material. With a bit more structure (while not losing the off-the-cuff retorts), this could develop into something truly enjoyable.

2.5 stars

Matthew Kelly the Musical is on at 2.50pm at Buffs Club
Review written by Sarah Sharp

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