Edinburgh Fringe review: Tommy Rowson, Down And Out In Powys And London
It’s hard to pin down the source of Tommy Rowson’s appeal. Is it the fact that the wry, tattooed comic is a loveable rogue, or the fact he looks a bit like a younger, slightly better looking version of fellow Welshman Rhys Ifans?
It’s probably the former, to be fair. Rowson’s roguish credentials are covered in an opening video sequence that covers his early exploits, which include misbehaving with a shotgun, generally being a bit of a rapscallion and speeding on the M4. It’s hardly Breaking Bad, but he’s certainly not the best behaved – or most organised – person on the planet, which is why his girlfriend left him.
In this very amusing autobiographical show, Rowson explores the various reasons she gave for leaving him, taking time to consider each one slowly and methodically. He delves into his past in an attempt to prove her wrong and uncovers a series of mucky, misguided boyhood and young adult exploits that are great fun to listen to.
He’s incredibly dry, cool and collected: his jokes about his childhood friends, losing his virginity and being repeatedly mugged in Brixton aren’t uproarious, but they are well timed, clever and very much appreciated by the audience: as is the shot of whisky he shares with a guy on the front row at the start of the performance.
As well as liking a drink, Rowson’s also a fan of Jesus. We’re told that Jesus is a good pal of his and a very nice guy by all accounts. He weaves religion into his stories in an extremely low key way. It’s less WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) and more TIWIDAWJWTBMUIICDTIBHUTHOWPT (This Is What I Did, And Why Jesus Would Totally Back Me Up If It Came Down To It Because He Used To Hang Out With Prostitutes Too.)
Another thing that makes Rowson a pleasure to watch is his skill at blending his autobiographical sections of the show with a large pinch of salt (we’re never sure if he’s telling the whole truth about his family members’ murky past or his own behaviour) and a great deal of very well timed audience banter.
It’s rare for more than a minute to pass without him turning to an audience member to back him up, agree with him or add something to his story. These interruptions give the show a confidential, revelatory air. It’s a bit like being locked in a confessional booth in a church with an incredibly unpredictable, slightly drunk priest…but in a good way.
Rowson’s show does slow down at times, but that’s more a symptom of his considered, dry persona than any real fault on his part. When this happens, he picks up on it immediately and is quick to speed things up again with a quick gag or a clever aside. In fact, some of these jokes are so smart alecky that you occasionally almost miss them. You can tell he has an A Level in Maths (another reason that his ex shouldn’t have dumped him. They’re not that easy to get).
There’s a lot to like about Rowson. His swagger, his dry wit, his disreputable charm…not to mention the fact he’s handing out free shots. This clever comedian is certainly one to watch.
Date of live review: 9 August 2014 @ Underbelly Clover