Jamie MacDonald – Blinkered
It’s a rare talent to make a show focused around your disability without coming across as gimmicky. This isn’t a problem for Jamie MacDonald, likely because all he has to do is recount stories of his life and his blindness will wiggle it’s way in. This is particularly interesting with MacDonald seeming like an ordinary and intelligent everyman, making the distortions his lack of sight has on his life entirely relatable. This, paired with his remarkably positive outlook on life, refusing to turn things into a self pitying misery-fest, makes MacDonald a fine storyteller. He also covers an impressive amount of ground over the course of the hour, taking on many of the buzz topics of today and detailing the embarrassing realities of a lack of self-dependence, keeping things light hearted (and a little shallow at times). As far as comedy goes, there are funnier and more elegantly constructed shows out there, but ones such as this which clearly aren’t reaching for anything deeper or more meaningful and instead simply exist to entertain are noteworthy just in their scarcity. For people looking for this lighter return to form for comedy, Jamie MacDonald is surely one to look out for.
★★★ (and a half)
Chris Chopping: Lonely Hearts Club Band
Chris Chopping frequently makes the point that his new show isn’t about anything at all. You might almost believe him until about ten minutes in, when it becomes painfully clear it is about his recent break-up and the things he has done as a consequence of this. While this feels deceitful, it’s unclear whether it’s Chris or his audience who is being deceived. That is also not to say the show is unenjoyable. While Chris often comes across as somewhat pathetic, the self-depreciation on display seems to be happening on a level above that which is immediately visible. Even when things are less subtle, these moments of self-deprecation and self-abuse are when Chris is at his best. However, when the show stops trying to be funny it becomes a bit less interesting, simply recounting the problems and sadness most of us have been through without adding any interesting take on things (not that there isn’t anything admirable about his response). There is still undoubtedly something entertaining about watching someone roll around in their own misery, it’s just a bit more stomachable if you’re given warning first.
★★★ (and a half)
Alex Garner – Who??
Sometimes it’s not quite enough to simply acknowledge something you are doing to qualify as having ‘self-awareness’. In the case of Alex Garner, admitting you’re covering the same trodden ground as many other shows in the Fringe, while being funny, doesn’t mean you’re any more unique. That is certainly not to say that this show is without unique qualities. Its take on social media, for example, is striking in its lack of pretense. Garner both mocks our dependence on modern technology and acknowledges the very real pressures and anxieties it can cause. There are many other sections with a charming individuality, the dad joke intervals that break up the show being a notable example (and also an example of self-awareness done well), these points also seeming to be where Garner feels most comfortable. ‘Who??’ is definitely worth viewing for these nuggets of gold that shine through, and future ventures which manage to hone in on what made these parts special could easily fulfill the potential on display here. However, if you’re hoping for 50 minutes of groundbreaking comedy, you may come away a little disappointed.