Performed with the backdrop of a tough looking boxer dog (the real one having been banned from the show), Tom Allen sets the stage for an hour of well-told anecdotes of everyday situations, with some not-so-very-everyday outcomes, all in the name of ‘toughening up.’
Although the title only acts as a very loose framework, it enables Allen to play to his abilities, portraying hysterical characters that both epitomize and oppose the ability to be tough. These characters are made particularly powerful by the juxtaposition of his smooth, well-spoken demeanour with harsh East-End retorts, which artfully lead the captivated audience through descriptions of his upbringing, his local area, failed romances and, dare he mention it, his unsuccessful shows.
Unfortunately these anecdotes falter at the punchline. The dynamic portraits of situations and people he describes are unnecessarily cheapened with innuendos that leave the audience with a sense of anticlimax. This, coupled with some awkward audience interaction, give one the sense that he is trying to cater for a wider audience than he needs to.
His performance is nevertheless greatly enjoyable, applauding the straightforward observational humour that is so fitting for this intimate venue and variety of audience that the festival provides.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 4-29 Aug (not 16), 7.30pm