Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Devon-born, London-raised and Brighton-living Goatley is the quintessence of the apologetic, enthusiastic and polite English beta male. In this show he talks candidly about his embarrassments of the past, his embarrassments of the present and his hopes (and potential embarrassments) for the future.
Sweet Venues in Grassmarket is somewhat of a partially-hidden Edinburgh Fringe institution. Performers and staff are a family. This year, seasoned performer Aidan Goatley (best known for his popular ’10 Films With My Dad’) has joined Sweet. It remains to be seen, at this stage, whether he is a new baby or a well-intentioned but bumbling uncle.
From the very second Goatley bounds onto the stage, you know you are going to like him – and not in a facile and transient way. He is immensely likable. The audience are engaged within seconds. There is huge happiness and energy from the start. It’s as if Michael McIntyre didn’t have his millions and was actually genuinely happy all the time, but far less irritating. You find yourself wanting him to succeed not in a patronising display of paternalism but because he is a realistic everyman. On this particular night, the house is fairly full and Goatley comments more than once it was the best audience he has had for this piece.
The performance space is the smallest at Sweet and there is no support for Goatley; he has set lighting, a black curtain backdrop and a can of Fanta on a small table. Nothing else is needed.
His style of delivery has been compared to Hugh Grant’s movie awkwardness. There IS that feeling about him but without the privileged buffoon act. In sound and style, it is like Mr Tumble has adopted David Attenborough’s voice and thrown in a very small dash of Julian Clary campness. So – he’s very English, but a real English.
He deals with matters that have genuinely affected his life rather than clichéd observations. Not many people can pass on factual anecdotes about choosing their own prosthetic testicle. He speaks with humour about his early 20s alcoholism, the difficulty of staying polite when a long-haul passenger engages you in uncomfortable conversation before your plane has taken off, trying to keep on the right side of violent alpha males (ultimately impossible) and life in Brighton. His impression of his wife arriving home drunk is worth the admission price alone but the most cringeworthy and hilarious anecdote is when he regales the audience with the story of how he once found himself unwittingly caught in an active cruising zone in an M25 service station. He closes with a beautiful and touching explanation of why the show has the title of ‘Mr Blue Sky’. You could be forgiven for wiping a feelgood tear, and there are audible ‘aahs’ from the audience.
Throughout he is lively without being boisterous, world-weary without being downbeat and engaging without being arrogant. You get the feeling he is genuinely enjoying himself even more than the audience, were it possible. Having the ability to keep up this momentum so far into a run is laudable and Goatley pulls it off extremely well.
I have but one reservation, and it is a small one. In a space as small as it is, a microphone isn’t necessary. The sound quality from it was not particularly good and this performer is so well connected with his audience he doesn’t need this hand-held barrier. I would like to see how much further it could go if he lost it and the last symbol of a divide between him and us.
Listening to Aidan Goatley makes you happy. If you have had a long day at Edinburgh Fringe, you could do far worse than getting down to Grassmarket and ending your evening with an hour of non-contrived feelgood. His material is original and of a consistently high quality.