John Kearns: Don’t Worry They’re Here at Soho Theatre
John Kearns strolls onto the stage, shakes a few hands, tucks in his shirt and grins wolfishly with those unmissable joke shop teeth. So begins a polished show that mixes absurdity and pathos, boldly delivered.
Kearns is onto a winner with his idiosyncratic stage persona. It’s not a character, as he told the Guardian in an interview – it’s him. A wacky wig and teeth combined with squawking Cockney modulation merely allow him a caricature from which to tell stories from his own life.
The effect is that of watching observational comedy, enriched with thoughtful detail, but whose tales vary from the fanciful to the surreal like the adventures of a cartoon. There’s a nod to classic comedy too, with an homage to Eric Morecambe running through the hour-long gig.
He’s self-deprecating: during his set supporting Russell Kane, there were ten minutes of silence so severe he heard someone crack open a can from the balcony, he tells his audience. And he’s trapped in sedentary suburbia: he talks about the hours he spends with his friend Mehmet who owns a café, and tidbits such as seeing a woman walking backwards down the street; about reluctantly going for a massage; scanning a Crème Egg at the self-service checkout and pontificating about Napoleon to a pramful of triplets.
There is inherent hilarity to be found in his singular turn of phrase. “Had a go on a swivel chair. Why not?” Then there are pockets of disarming vulnerability and unabashed existentialism, which are all the funnier for being unexpected.
Kearns’s interaction with the audience is confident and feeds into the self-deprecating narrative (he acts more resigned than disappointed when picking up members of the front row for snoozing or failing to laugh). He riffs with a moth fluttering overhead and, later, sends himself up after forgetting part of a story. Often, he allows himself what looks like a genuine amused smile, which the audience responds to with glee.
It’s not difficult to see why Kearns earned the Best Newcomer Award in 2013, going on to win the Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2014. Don’t Worry They’re Here is a show substantial enough to satisfy a hearty appetite, deserving of high praise for its strong style, clever composition and flourish of an ending.
John Kearns: Don’t Worry They’re Here is at the Soho Theatre from 15th until 30th September 2017. For further information or to book visit here.
Watch a clip of John Kearns’ 2015 set here.