Camden Fringe 2011
‘Life, Death and Birthdays’ tells the story of Adrian Poynton, a comical individual who can find any reason to celebrate every disastrous, thoughtless moment in life. Who needs an organized meticulous script when you are simply talented at creating a chaotic narrative of experiences that most of us would avoid?
The fact still remains that this award winning writer of the ‘White Van Man’, previously shown on BBC, did not follow his pre – planned script, as advertised on the Camden Fringe website. There was no talk about the disappointment of fancy dress, the awkwardness of social occasions or birthdays. But, the show was definitely still uplifting, cleverly choosing the riots as a backdrop and then gradually building a playful, yet honest sequence of unbelievably true events. From pigeons on the metro, to butch lesbians’ right down to gorilla monkeys at London Zoo, the night did not fail to disappoint.
The past few weeks of riots demonstrated the real disgust, discontent and frustration from the people of London. So far, these events in London have contributed to a negative view of England itself. So, when Adrian began the night with a hilarious crack at being caught in four of the riots, purely because, as in his words, ‘I am genuinely an idiot’, it was a very welcome fresh breath of air. Poynton cleverly uses the riot to start, as a recent event that we can relate to, but gradually builds a running theme that we should be proud to be English, no matter what we face. All his experiences are linked together perfectly to form a structured dialogue.
He starts with the ‘hoodie’ rioters as a part of the England population, then moving to the talk of neighbours, who are the people of England that we are closer to and have experienced. Whilst revealing stories about his neighbours and his admirable love for their strange characteristics, he joyfully moves on to his general love of big cities such as London. The audience was showered with interesting images of the naked bicycle ride in London, a kebab and a tattoo shop being too close for comfort in Hull, especially when on a drunken night out, a must – see Monkey World in Dorset and Tottenham being a strange hotspot for the practice of scientology. Never has the dialogue in a show been so unpredictable.
Perhaps, one aspect that made the performance less appealing was the design of the room. It was very small and lacked any real ventilation and not all the audience was situated on one side of the room. But, Poynton managed to overcome this shortcoming as the night was fast paced, with enough of laughter all round. He also positioned himself differently at various stages of the act so that he was facing a different part of the audience at a given time and thus the audience interacted with him as they felt part of the act. The set was very simple and was just used to stand on, with no decorative background. This set the right tone and atmosphere for the act as anything flashy would have drawn the attention away from Poynton.
Adrian’s act brings a new aspect to the comedy circuit as he talks about his real life experiences and the audience are left feeling like they really know him towards the end. Overall, Poynton did succeed in delivering an outstanding performance, which would have been even better if he did not refer, several times, that there were only a few minutes of his act left and the audience would soon be on their way home. This might have alluded that he was unprepared when in fact, the act was anything but. I could not have asked a lot more from this night and wished that it did go on for longer. The stories about the AA not rescuing him from a deserted medieval village, a ‘not so pregnant’ woman tainting a bus seat as well as his bizarre neighbour writing a play about ‘Lady Casanova’ were some the highlights of the evening, but the best moment was his interaction with a fashion writer in the audience who gasped when Adrian simply mentioned the destruction of Selfridges.
This performance deserves a four star rating since apart from a few problems with the room, the dialogue created was superb, Adrian’s expressions were terrific and the message given was an important yet poignant one. And personally, I think that if all of us had the similar outlook on life, England would be a much nicer place.