Innes McQuillin

Edinburgh Fringe review: James Christopher, Partially Sighted In All The Big Venues

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Like. Lol. Smiley face. Whatever else indicates a thoroughly enjoyable and funny experience. Thank you, Mr James Christopher of York, England, for making the annual pilgrimage to Edinburgh and for making me laugh, repeatedly.

A word first on the venue. The Banshee Labyrinth is in Niddry Street, just off the Royal Mile, ideal for passing trade. James is in the Chamber Room, down steep steps into a darkish dungeon-like space. It’s do-able, with care, for the less mobile and the partially sighted.

Which takes us neatly to the title of the show. James is partially sighted, which provides him with a funny tale of embarrassment: the Banshee Labyrinth is definitely not a big venue. Having played the venue last year, James seems very much at home.

James began his set with a string of quality one liners. Well conceived, with a nice, understated delivery. I would happily listen to his one-liners all night, but it turns out that’s not what he’s really about.

That said, there’s an art and an artifice in getting a cold audience to laugh and James nailed it. There was an immediate good vibe in the room. Sadly, the one-liners ended, never to be seen again.

What we got instead was a more conversational, observational, storytelling approach. While still mainly light in tone, James cleverly injected more thought provoking material. Not all the stories linked, and while the laughs understandably slowed, the goodwill he’d built up carried through. Truth be told, the next laugh was never too far away anyway.

Noticeably, and in contrast to many other comedians on the Fringe, James didn’t rely on cheap laughs with gratuitous references to sex or the overuse of expletives. He’s proper funny.

Nor did a verbose member of the audience phase James; he went along for the ride and brought it neatly back with a laugh. The instant connection he’d established with the audience persisted, and they were with him to a man and a woman throughout.

There’s an endearing quality about James. He’s a tall, slim, lightly bearded, long haired 36 year-old. Hippyish in appearance and demeanour, he’s still wearing his Glastonbury wristband.

With the audience going from laugh to laugh, he’ll stop, bend down, take a drink from his pint, lose a bit of momentum in the process and he’ll start again. He cheerfully admits to consulting the set list he’s written, in large letters of course, on the reverse side of the flip charts he uses to illustrate some of his stories.

The James Christopher that ambled in and out of the room before the show was the same chap that ambled on stage and performed for 45 minutes. It didn’t feel as though he’d invented a character or the experiences he was relating.

In the maelstrom of Edinburgh it’s sometimes difficult to remember that comedy lives elsewhere for the other 11 months of the year. You’ll find James on the northern circuit mainly, but his easy charm and talent would work just as well further south.

I’d happily spend another 45 minutes in the comedy company of James Christopher and I recommend that you do too.


Date of live review: 8 August 2014 @ Banshee Labyrinth

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