Nathan Cassidy: Observational

Laughing Horse @ The Three Sisters
17:15 Aug 7-28

I guess the Free Fringe is about giving performers a space to deliver their art, with the bare minimum of glamour. The Three Sisters in the Cowgate is a place that people go to, to get pissed. It is famous for it; Hen Parties, Stag Parties et al gather every weekend to get drunk. Its also one of the venues that accommodate The Edinburgh Free Fringe. Free, subject to a £7-£10 contribution at the end of the performance, card or cash kind of free. Now that is funny, in an observational improv comedy kind of way.

Observational comedy works, to some extent, by taking an ordinary, boring, routine event and introducing an element of the absurd. Nathan does this here, and he does it smoothly. The little grubby room, think Tap Room before the smoking ban, which housed Nathan Cassidy’s Comedy show, was packed to the rafters with an audience that he found difficult to work. Or could it have been that the venue was unworkable?

Nathan has achieved, over the years great accolades, for his work as a comedian. I couldn’t help thinking that a performance artist of Nathan’s stature deserved proper stage lighting and a room with curtains.

Sir Michael Caine Award for new writing in theatre Winner 2007
Malcolm Hardee Award Nominee 2012
Best solo comedy show Buxton Fringe Winner 2014
Best solo comedy show Buxton Fringe Nominee 2015
Best solo comedy show Buxton Fringe Nominee 2016
Best solo comedy show Buxton Fringe Nominee 2017
Terrier Award Edinburgh Fringe Winner 2017
Best solo comedy show Buxton Fringe Nominee 2019
Best show Leicester Comedy Festival Nominee 2020
Best solo comedy show Buxton Fringe Nominee 2021
Best comedy show Greater Manchester Fringe Nominee 2021
Off West End Stage Awards Nominee 2021
Best standup Buxton Fringe Nominee 2022
Best standup Brighton Fringe Winner 2022.

So with that in mind, was he any good? Was he funny? His material is autobiographical, weaving a tale drawn from adolescence, the subject matter being friendships that end. This triggered thoughtful reflection among the members of the audience and ripples of sadness followed… can such a subject matter ever be funny? Nathan is not a one-liner kind of comic, his explanation of his 40 year old crook back and description of his personal trainer trying to ease his pain was funny. Divine had to restrain himself from offering him the healing that he needed.

So far, this is a familiar stand-up framing. The pre-show advertising and Nathan’s introduction provide an identifiable start and end-point and define the show’s central theme. We know that a sequence of stories, jokes and the odd pun will join the beginning to the end. With much of the heavy lifting already done, the show’s subject matter was dark and not suitable for children the audience can follow the easily understandable narrative arc. Observational is a clever, articulate and original stand-up comedy show. This is stand-up comedy for adults, and Nathan is a very accomplished comedian with the necessary skills to deliver an excellent performance. The material is dark and funny, sometimes scathing and cynical, but it can also be touching and hopeful. It is very well-observed and cleverly put together.

Then, there is the finale, which is very good indeed.

You are never bored and always engaged, and Nathan makes you laugh.

Observational deserves a bigger audience and a much nicer venue, and Divine highly recommends this show.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

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