Various Dates / Times
Over the last 18 months, time, for many of us, has taken on curious new properties. At points, existence has felt as if it possessed the surreal properties of a Looney Tunes cartoon, days and weeks speeding past us in a Roadrunner-esque blur. Whilst pop-cultural events, and ‘historic moments’ in our – and society’s – lives, sit frozen in an ever present stasis at the front of our minds, a carbonite Casket in which Bobba Fett has accidentally placed Joe Exotic, instead of Han Solo.
It’s to Nathan Cassidy’s immense credit that he has managed to distil precisely this experience into an hour of well crafted Observational Comedy, and some tantalisingly brief glimpses of a Physical Comedy masterclass, which had the post lockdown, multi demographic, full house of a crowd engaged, laughing, and emoting throughout it’s entire length.
Framed around Mr Cassidys recent brush with an amateurish burglar; driven by Covid related unemployment into an ill-fated life of crime, he links together the moments which whizzed past his eyes whilst giving chase down the street, soundtracked by ‘Flight of The Bumblebee.’ Comic, and semi-tragic, memories from childhood are blended with a Charlie Brooker style take down of the villains of politics, economics, and Social Media, from the last 12 months. Billionaire Astronauts, over-efficient home schoolers, social media spite competitions, “Cuntservatives”.
There was as broad a demographic in the room as you could imagine, and laughs from every corner, with knowingly chuckling students, guffawing pensioners, and even a 6 month old baby (who gave a small, but vociferous, attempt at heckling near the end of the show, which Cassidy managed with confidence and panache).
Like the show’s title, and the oft referenced Rimsky Korsakoff piece, Mr Cassidy buzzes around his subjects, little flashes and bursts of reminiscences from 80’s pop culture, political landscape, and his home above the wonderfully monikered ‘Lettuce and Letters’ (A greengrocers cum Post Office, as if you had to ask).
Throughout, it’s hard to define precisely what is and isn’t strictly true in the areas of his own life discussed. There is a feel of ‘post truth’ comedy to it, and Nathan seems to present an explanation for this ¾’s of the way through the show, with the revelation of an ill family member, or is there? This, as with a number of the short, neatly interlocking Lego style segments is slightly rushed. A few sections suffer from this lack of clarity, and more time, and care, spent at the beginning of the set in laying out ‘the premise’ of the show would aid this greatly.
I love Edinburgh, and having come for over 10 years on the trot now every street has a different memory, good, bad and wonderful, every nook and cranny sets off a different feeling inside me, it’s a magical place.
To avoid some of the 80s references falling flat with younger sections of the audience, these were all neatly picked up, or ‘topped’, by adding in a topical lockdown reference to counterpoint. This tactic however was not required for his joke about televisions historic 9pm ‘watershed’. Such a perfectly crafted thing of beauty it was, that it overcame any potential crowd prudishness about it’s own X-rated punchline, and delivered a comically apt torrent of expectorated laughs from representatives of every age group in the room (6 month old baby aside). The presence of a child that young, hearing this kind of material deep in the bowels of the perma-beer soaked Three Sisters, seemed fittingly surreal in the context of our current reality.
The flashbacks to his childhood, or “stuff that flashes before your eyes”, could work better in first person. Cassidy excels when delivering as Cassidy, not so much when he segues into a narrator role. How he actually ‘feels’ about the memories he describes is slightly lost in the storytelling, when his obvious physical comedy prowess could serve him better. This is particularly evident in his delivery of some U2 themed punnery which doesn’t land as well as the set up deserved. Likewise, a section which could have neatly skewered the audiences hypocrisy in terms of individuals who they have considered to be ‘Heroes’ over the last 12 months, didn’t land as well as it might due to his use of the word Police, instead of Policemen/Women, asking the audience to compare apples to oranges and in doing so losing a moment of the joke’s momentum.
The physical comedy is very tight, and a talent for delivering observational comedy is best highlighted in moments such as poignantly, and very entertainingly, illustrating his step fathers character through the manner in which he grasped CD’s, or the tactically deployed cheeky facial asides and knowing looks to the audience as he mimes his minimalist heroic sprint after the escaping burglar. A performance of the recent Matt Hancock ‘smooch n’grope tape’ is nauseatingly spot on, and I can only imagine that there must have been some Pop Art therapeutic process at work in his performance of his step parents super hero themed sex games.
When the lights came up the audience lauded the performance with extended, warm applause recognising, it would seem, that here was someone who like them had lived and survived the travails, large and small, of these unprecedented recent times. If it felt somewhat as if Cassidy hadn’t quite figured out what it all meant yet, then that was possibly the greatest gift he gave the audience to take away with them as they emerged from the darkness of the venue into a surreally cold, quiet Cowgate in August, free of flyerers, performers, and sociable 3pm drunkards. For a stand up to create something which united the entire audience in laughter, oozed pathos, and in an almost tangible sense ‘connected’ the whole room, and for it to have been written in the isolation of a post-burgled house in London, is no mean feat and testament to a very exciting talent indeed.