Ian Smith – Live Review – Junction Goole

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By Rachael Popow, July 2019

Like most of Britain’s comedians, Ian Smith is heading to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. But first, he stopped off at Junction in Goole to offer a preview of his show, ‘Half-Life’.

It’s a smart choice of venue. For a start, Smith is a Goole native, so he was given a warm welcome, even before he regaled us with his observations about the local paper and the controversial bench outside the train station. (However, a home crowd didn’t guarantee him a completely sympathetic hearing. When he joked about his fiancee’s parents showing favouritism towards her sister’s new boyfriend, one woman in the audience offered her own, very blunt explanation for why that may be).

The fact that he was playing in the Junction’s smaller Workshop, rather than the main auditorium, also fitted the work-in-progress feel of the show. It was intimate enough that Smith was able to perform without a microphone – which was just as well because, as he rightly pointed out, when he did pick up the mic it sounded like he’d come to conduct hostage negotiations rather than tell us jokes. This informality also worked well when there were technical problems with the laptop or when Smith realised he’d forgotten a segment and had to go back.

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“Inspired silliness”

But if that makes ‘Half-Life’ sound a little shambolic, it became clear as the set wore on just how smart and well-planned it actually was, with clever call backs and developing themes.

It was also very funny. Tales of his holidays, including a surreal detour during a Scottish trip with his fiancee and an eye-opening tour of Chernobyl, and a board game-related grand romantic gesture are among the storytelling highlights, but there are also great, seemingly throwaway gags about Netflix in general and Kiefer Sutherland’s drama Designated Survivor in particular.

And while Smith may be steering clear of political material, despite these being golden times for satirists, in amongst the inspired silliness there are bigger themes about relationships and mental health, which are gracefully handled.

At the end of the set, Smith pointed out that he’d been on for an hour and four minutes, but would have to trim it back to 55 minutes for the Fringe. It’s to the show’s credit that there’s no obvious slack to cut – although maybe the stuff about the bench outside Goole station won’t go down quite as well in Edinburgh…

images: Edward Moore


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