'In this way I shall preserve many things that would otherwise be lost in oblivion. I shall find daily employment for myself, which will save me from indolence and help to keep off the spleen, and I shall lay up a store of entertainment for my after life.'

For James Boswell posts please follow the labels on the right.

This blog mainly contains reviews from the Edinburgh Festivals from 2008 to 2010 which I wrote for the Edinburgh Festivals Magazine. These reviews cover everything from comedy to contemporary dance; children's theatre to Handel.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Andrew O'Neill Review

Andrew O'Neill Review

Being a keen historian, and alleged descendent of James Watt, Andrew O’Neill’s Totally Spot on History of Britain held great promise for your reviewer. Unfortunately the show served as a warning: never judge a piece of comedy by the title.

Comedy history, as Marcus Brigstocke highlighted in his ‘We are History’ series, can often be hilarious. An often arrogant or eccentric lot, TV historians are excellent targets for satire. O’Neill (who, with his grungy look, nail polish, and new romantic air, would also make a good target) instead presents his material to the audience as if reciting a play or speech. While this lecture is well rehearsed, O’Neill proceeds to create a stand-up disaster on an industrial scale. A total lack of engagement with the audience eventually left me disinterested and bored. Improvised – or semi-improvised – comedy at least has the benefit of being able to detect what gets a laugh and what does not. O’Neill conversely, sticks rigidly to a script that relies far too much on that most difficult of comic devices: surrealism. The completely random quality of many jokes quickly becomes tedious and meaningless. As a result of this haphazard style the topic of industrialism (which had great potential) fades into the background in a torrent of poorly thought out jokes.

Like many a new romantic this show is superficially slick and shiny, yet far too pretentious for its own good. While it’s nice to see someone attempt a new subject, O’Neill lacks both humour and substance.

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