Review: John Kearns: Don't Worry They're Here at Pleasance Dome

Mind the gap between the show and reality.

John Kearns is the quintessential mould of the surreal comedian, striding onto the stage in the echoing Queen Dome auditorium wearing a wig and fake, protruding teeth. They’re not the set up to a joke, they’re just… there. Unfortunately for him (or perhaps intentionally, who knows?) they act as something of a metaphor for the show.
Kearns has the passion and panache of a top flight raconteur, striding the stage and filling it ably. His skill at establishing presence becomes immediately clear. A slightly awkward start involving asking people to guess the price of his shoes discomforts somewhat, but also draws out some laughs quickly enough. He then launches into his rambling series of anecdotes, checking the list he’s brought onto stage with him.

Kearns moves ably enough from story to story, touching back, consulting with the audience every now and then, but generally seeming happy enough to prattle away. The difficulty lies in the fact that none of it is terrifically funny. The audience laughs gamely at punchlines, but not enough, and even Kearns doesn’t actually seem terribly concerned about whether or not he’s pulling it off. The whole performance feels like a cross between Artaud and a medieval morality play, which would be interesting in and of itself, but doesn’t work so well as comedy. The laughs are there, but they involve fair bit of labour to reach.
Ultimately, these kinds of shows are hard to review because of the inherent principle of absurdity underlying the anecdotes. Precisely written, extremely well acted, but falling on deaf ears. Technically speaking, it’s virtuoso, but the results are less impressive. When Kearns really hits his stride by walking fully into absurdity, or making himself plainly vulnerable, it’s gold, but the rest of it wouldn’t feel out of place from a drunk on the street outside a kebab shop. If you enjoy a show that you can analyse, then this is for you – just don’t expect to be clutching your sides while in the room.
John Kearns, Don’t Worry They’re Here, Pleasance Dome, 9-12 Aug, 8.20pm
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