Brighton Fringe 2019
Like Elvis’s ’68 comeback special, Mike Daly is out to prove he’s still got it. Quite what he’s got is open to question. Jody Kamali’s latest comedy character really hits the target.
There have been salacious stories in the tabloids about the decline of a champion, the drink, the drugs, the belly and bad hair. Mike Daly wants to put the record straight. How he came from nothing to win the Fray Bentos Darts Trophy. From the years climbing the ranks on the circuit; Bolton, Tilbury, the Wirral, to those triumphant entrances into the match arena. What happened to the Bristol boy who made it as an athlete, now gone to fat, living alone, and whose moustache keeps falling off?
Here is a man eager to reclaim some self-respect and win back his fans. He’s going to do it by responding to questions from the audience and acting out some of the key moments from his journey. Daly weaves through the decades soundtracked by ’80’s and ’90’s music, with dodgy dancing, bad impersonations and stupid accents. There is of course a dart-board, and arrows are thrown with immense self-belief often missing the board entirely. A sequence set in an Essex pub feels frighteningly real to this Essex born watcher.
Kamali is a fine physical performer and natural clown who always hovers just beneath the surface of characters. He has the ability to draw the audience in, and occasionally on stage without coercion, often just by a look in his wildly expressive eyes. He could entrance you by throwing a plastic bag in the air – and did just that in 2016 – famously getting shafted on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in the process.
Making sense out of chaos is his trademark. In 2017’s ‘Hotel Yes Please’ his hapless hotel manager couldn’t control the front desk let alone the guests and the earlier ‘Jody Kamali Spectacular’ was a joyful celebration of naff magic and silly tricks.
Darts and All is the most conventionally structured of his work that I’ve seen, following a linear narrative but naturally getting sidetracked and riding the comic energy in the room. There’s little in the way of set, one lighting change and music cue’d from an on-stage iPad, just as it should be for a star down on his luck. Structurally pretty loose and with some timing issues, it will no doubt tighten up by the time the show gets to Edinburgh Fringe. Not that you’d want any glimpse of polish on this particular trophy; the sense of suppressed mania is compelling. It’s a brilliantly contrived show that plays to Kamali’s strengths as a versatile clown, actor, audience manipulator and true original. Mike Daly is back. Catch him if you can.