Review: The 11 ½ Ill Conceived Shows of Dan Nightingale – Pleasance Jack Dome, Edinburgh.
Technical difficulties lead to a slow start for Dan Nightingale in his first Edinburgh show in four years. An off-the-cuff quip about the techie standing up on a chair, slap bang in front of the audience, clears the air, though; and, after this unwelcome distraction, Nightingale moves to more solid, familiar ground, into his ‘show proper.’
The theme for this show is interesting, if a little cumbersome; as the title suggests, it’s about all the possible shows Nightingale considered doing at this year’s Fringe. The first, a show based on a summer spent working in Haven holiday camp as a teenager, is arguably the weakest in terms of material. Nightingale knows how to work a room, though, and even when the material isn’t quite up to scratch, he can work through the laughs.
The early material is often jarred as a result of the conflicting subject matter, as he moves from industry in-jokes to biographical stories. But as he progresses, his links become smoother, and his observations sharper and more resonant.
Nightingale’s joy at being ID’d for gin in the supermarket, following a triumphant 23 minutes on the rowing machine, is one of his certified bankers in terms of material, and it’s hilariously executed tonight. Equally, off-handed, bitter comments about his step mother provoke full-on belly laughs from this reviewer. The subjects aren’t particularly new – they can’t be given the size of this festival – but Nightingale generally approaches them with an original angle, fresh and friendly as always, with the crowd on side.
Towards the end, while retaining its light hearted, chatty feel, the show moves to subjects deeper and darker. Experience of having a dead parent, and why this may not be a good subject for a show – despite recent evidence to the contrary – certainly provides some food for thought. While the closing ‘eulogy’, furnished with funny and self-effacing call backs from earlier in the show, ties this structurally-tricky show up rather nicely.
Your time with Nightingale is well spent, and while cliché, he really is just your mate down the pub. There’s an admirable connection between comedian and crowd, as he banters around pieces of material; but this show really just hints at a reservoir of talent which could perhaps be more efficiently tapped.
Date of live review: Saturday 10th August 2012.