Innes McQuillin

Edinburgh Fringe review: Sean Turner, Comedy With A Dyslexic Geordie

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Always check the Fringe programme beforehand. Forewarned is forearmed. Sean Turner – “alternative comedy from surreal to observational”, “an energetic show” and “a brooding north-eastern mania”. Good, no mention of the dreaded audience participation.

One minute in and it’s clear I’ve been suckered. It’s not a case of the show including audience participation, it wouldn’t work without it. It’s all very Vic and Bob with random ramblings and associations, nonsensical impressions, repeat bits and endless, endless audience participation.

Having got over the initial shock of meeting Sean’s on-stage character, and conquered the urge to rush for the door, there was nothing for it but to sit back and sit it out. Amused, bemused and confused – unfortunately not in equal measure – just about covers it for me. I’m still trying to figure out why Sean played so much of the show to one particular member of the audience. It simply didn’t work.

Sean can’t be faulted for his originality and bravery as he presides over an overwhelmingly strange and silly hour. While there are funny moments along the way, neither his character nor his material generates enough laughs to maintain interest.

Returning to the description in the programme, surreal the show certainly is, but observational and energetic it’s not. Amid all the strangeness, strange to say, was a line eerily similar to a Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch circa 1980 – though this could, of course, be coincidental.

Audience reaction throughout was mixed. Some joined in and went with the flow, some didn’t. Some laughed, some didn’t. Sean, to his credit, never gave up and continued to put on a performance that fully justified the brooding mania tag. Top marks too for standing outside the venue with his flyers until minutes before the show.

Definitely a show for alternative comedy fans, it would also interest those in need of relief from a surfeit of mainstream comedy at the festival.

This is Sean’s first solo Edinburgh hour, having halved a bill for the past two years. With his background as an actor, he’s got good presence and convinces as his on-stage character. He’s unmistakably Geordie and proud.

Developments in comedy tend to come from the outsiders rather than the mainstream. Sean is as out there as anyone out there. Keep an eye on him.

Date of live review: 6 August 2014, Laughing Horse @ Jekyll & Hyde

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