Show: Russell Kane: Posturing Delivery
Genre: Stand up comedy
Where/When: Assembly Rooms, George Street, 13 – 24 August
Written by: S E Grogans
Opening night is always a tough nut to crack. Russell Kane’s TV fame means that he’s sold out even on a Monday night, and the fact that both of his popular shows air on BBC 3 shows may explain why there are so many teenagers here, escorted by mum and dad. The nine year old behind me is a bit of a mystery though. His parents are either super liberal or have been lulled into a false sense of security by Kane’s cheeky, televisual charms. Luckily he sleeps through the entire gig so his parents don’t have to answer any awkward questions on whether or not babies really come out of bums.
Debuting his latest show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Kane is a Festival veteran but this is the first time he’s played the ballroom of the newly refurbished Assembly. He stalks the stage nervously, trying to play to all 3 sides of the audience, and gauge how fast he should speak in the echo-y room. The Jedward hair is toned down to a quiff, and he is wearing what appear to be jeggings. The last time I saw Kane do stand up a few years ago was when he still had emo hair and talked about university, drugs and being working class – he was a genuine, warm, kind-hearted and funny guy. Since then, he has lost his father, broken up with his long term partner and gained invitations to VIP events. I’m curious to see how time has changed him.
The concept of this new show is that Kane has been ‘sowing his wild oats’ and has made the effort to stay single for most of the year. Singledom, for a serial monogamist, is quite a scary place to be, and has led him to think about what he wants for his future – the kind of girl (yes, he’s straight) and the kind of kids. Initially resorting to the comic comfort zone of quizzing the audience and taking the piss out of them, he then segues – not entirely seamlessly- into his new material. On stage, he raises his imaginary son, talking about how he wants life to be for young Ivan, relating back to his own childhood experiences. His delivery is disjointed, running off on tangents and often forgetting poor Ivan to take the audience on hilarious diversions. It’s enjoyable, but what could be a strong, poignant, narrative fails to shine through and tie the pieces together. Particularly good is a section on sibling rivalry that most of us can relate to. Kane runs short on time, skipping a section of youth, and the show ends a little flat, with Kane falling back on a few jokes he’s used on TV before in an attempt to tie things up. Always upfront with the audience, he admits that he has overrun in ‘the worst possible venue because there’s another show coming on straight after’ and this honesty and audience intimacy are Kane’s strengths.
Despite the opening night glitches, Kane is indisputably funny and keeps the pace going at a rate of knots so that the audience get a good show, just not quite the show he intended. The trick is not to underestimate Kane – despite his self-deprecation and reliance on physicality to elicit laughs, underneath there’s an intelligent, honest and heartfelt story of a young man coming to terms with himself and his future. Has he changed? As a comedian, he is slicker, faster, funnier – but as a person, he is still honest and we can genuinely believe that he is still the same working class boy. It’s no surprise that he has written a novel, The Humourist, which he will talk about at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. In coming shows, I hope the intelligence wins out over the flamboyance and the glittery microphone, and by the time the run finishes he’ll have a polished show to take on the road. I recommend you see it.