ME AND MR C – Ovalhouse, London.
A massive amount of the criticism (unfair, btw) levelled at Michael McIntyre is that his comedy is too simple. He follows the Jerry Seinfeld “what is the deal with X” school, pulling out clear examples from everyday life to form his sets. Yes, everyone has a drawer with pizza flyers, yes kids are cute, isn’t it great we’re making friends. It’s a sideswiping critique with unflattering overtones of sour grapes though. If it were true that audiences don’t respond to familiarity in comedy, then hundreds of other comedians and performers would be playing to empty pub rooms every night.
It could also mean Gary Kitching’s one man show Me and Mr C would leave audiences cold, rather than leaving the theatre in a confused hubbub of scandalised giggles and thoughtful murmurings.
Everyone has dark moments, times when they question their worth to the world and their place in it. Me and Mr C explores the life of a timid man when these dark moments seem to crowd all other light from his life. Returning home from his horrendous job, he talks to Mr C, a ventriloquist dummy, about his day and tries to convince it to come to his first stand-up comedy gig. It deteriorates from there, and through a hefty amount of audience participation (both before the show starts and during the performance) where he gets brutally heckled each time he performs stand-up, he breaks down.
It’s an improvised piece, so each performance will be different, but the core storyline will stay recognisable. And each time it’s performed, it will undoubtedly be both horribly uncomfortable to watch and participate in (heckling the poor guy as part of an encouraging crowd as he tries to break out of his awful life is fun at the time, then turns quickly shameful), but deeply funny.
Kitching’s pre-show communication with the audience to set the scene and get the ideas for improvised props foreshadows the actual performance very subtly, and throughout the performance the nods past the fourth wall draw us in further. It’s a super evening of funny, intelligent material with a real emotional impact and the co-created aspect serves well to build even more of an audience connection.
Perhaps it’s not quite a direct parallel with McIntyre. Both shows reveal the comedy behind the everyday, but Kitching’s is nowhere near as family friendly. Exploring loneliness, self-esteem, confidence issues and bluntly underdeveloped personal coping mechanisms, it pulls out instantly recognisable thoughts and makes them corporeal.
It’s not a new show, having been honed through various performances in the past and in Edinburgh. The improvised show is only on for another two nights though (20th and 21st November), and will most probably be fantastic each of those two days. If you don’t get a chance to see it, you’ll be able to find most of the emotional impact and introspection it delivers within yourself in the moments before sleep. Nowhere near as funny though.
Walking home, I’ve not felt so lonely in years – it was thrilling.
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By Karl O’Doherty
18th November – 21st November
Ovalhouse, London SE11 5SW.