John-Paul Stephenson

Review: Nathaniel Metcalfe: Enthusiast – Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh

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He’s armed with a TV guidebook, and he’s not afraid to use it.

Metcalfe is not only a geek; he’s a classic TV geek. Not of predictable, audience-grabbing things like Doctor Who, but, brandishing a battered copy of a TV Times guidebook, he celebrates the obscure.

Specifically, the work of Art Attack and Finders Keepers presenter Neil Buchanan.

Metcalfe harks back to a pre-internet age, when finding out about obscure things took patience and dedication. No asking Twitter, Shazam or Jeeves.

To find out about music, you had to risk humiliation from Rob Fleming-types in independent record shops.

Remember the ecstasy and adrenaline of finding a reference to something you love in a newly-published book? It was often the first indication that you were not alone.

And that’s the foundation of Metcalfe’s quest to find truth to the claim that Neil Buchanan wrote and performed in the heavy rock band Marseille.

Metcalfe evokes the pre-Tivo or iPlayer age, when catching something on TV was an art form. If you missed or misheard something, you had to inspect the Radio Times each week until the repeat was eventually scheduled.

Kids today don’t know they’re born.

Metcalfe’s goal was to clarify the seemingly-obscene lyrics in a Disney movie starring Kurt Russell.

The section evokes the above frustration and pursuits. However, repetition may well have been the point, but if Metcalfe uttered the words “He’s Gonna Make It” one more time… [removed due to police caution].

A self-deprecating joke about his media studies degree felt a little cheap.

It got the laugh, but it’s become the middle-class equivalent of resorting to the ‘c-’ word in a working-men’s club.

If you’re trying to establish yourself as an original comedian, it’s probably best to avoid gags bandied about by every sixth former.

Also, the venue suffered from unfortunate noise pollution from its other performance space. Metcalfe’s audience really had to work to concentrate on his rhythm and ignore the extraneous laughter.

Metcalfe is like Dave Gorman without the passport. It’s a pleasure to reignite some of those fond memories of finding the answer to something that probably doesn’t really matter.

Date of live review: Thursday 8 August 2013

Nathanial Metcalfe, Enthusiast is part of the PBH Free Fringe at the Cabaret Voltaire, 3-24 (not 14) August.