James Acaster: Recognise at Soho Theatre
James Acaster has brought his critically acclaimed Fringe show, Recognise, to the intimate Soho Theatre.
Opening with a discussion on finding loopholes in everyday life, he performed the first ten minutes of the routine on his knees as part of a reference to Torville and Dean’s gold medal-winning performance in Sarajevo. It was a clever joke that was revisited throughout the evening and provided a comfortingly surprising start to the gig.
Going on to reveal his true identity as Pat Springleaf – an undercover cop masquerading as a stand-up comic in order to infiltrate a drugs gang (or maybe it was a stand up-comic pretending to be an undercover cop, pretending to be a stand-up comic) – he slipped playfully in and out of character. This allowed him to discuss sensitive details about his personal life in an abstract and distanced manner, revealing to us the details of his annus horribilis without it getting too intense, though how much of it was actually true is anyone’s guess.
His delivery is reminiscent of Stewart Lee, with its long silences and repetition, but there’s far more vulnerability. A current of youthful insecurity flowed through the act, making him a much more affable performer than might otherwise result from his occasionally dark material, riffing on loneliness, thwarted childhood ambitions and failed relationships. Still, it wasn’t to everyone’s taste: he had to skilfully deal with some hecklers who made some slightly off-colour homophobic remarks – not the sort of thing that goes down too well at a comedy gig in Soho.
The highlight of the show was an absurd comedy podcast from Acaster and his drug-dealing associates, which, after some name-calling, general bullying, and an incident with a crisp sandwich, descended into a vicious gun battle. That this bizarre set-piece fit so neatly into the show was down to Acaster’s pacing and ability to easily tie together disparate themes into a cogent whole.
There were also good riffs on Google doodles, the art of schmoozing, and a free banana from Pret that would go on to haunt him. For a low-key, conversational and cerebral evening of comedy, be sure to catch James Acaster at the Soho Theatre this December.
James Acaster: Recognise is on at the Soho Theatre until 23rd December, for further information or to book visit here.