Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Iain’s grandfather was a fearless Scottish war hero, whose portrait hangs on the wall of Edinburgh Castle. As a shy teen growing up in Gloucestershire with two goats, 27 dogs and awkward hair, Iain is a bit different. This funny and heart-warming story reveals how Iain struggled to live up to his prestigious family history and how he faces his very own enemy on the beach.
In a crowded room, Iain sits on a chair on a raised stage. Initially the positioning seems awkward as he appears to loom over the audience, however the material and delivery breaks this barrier down. The arrangement is determined by the venue rather than the artist, but he deals with it well.
This isn’t a standard stand up show. It’s not a gag packed laugh a minute joke fest. This is a carefully crafted series of linked stories interwoven with jokes, gags and strangely, facts. Iain is a bit of a fact geek, as he tells his story he brings in interesting QI style points.
We are being told a personal story, it features incidents from his childhood and more specifically his rather interesting grandfather. To give verisimilitude he shows us photos, each picture has been well chosen, adding detail or comedy that moves or breaks up the story as necessary.
Iain is a natural storyteller. He moves his tale along at a steady pace, never seeming rushed. The laughs are appropriately spaced, the interludes well timed. The show seems to pass quicker than its allotted run time.
That said there are some elements that bear closer analysis and perhaps further development. Over use of the ‘Do we have any xxxx’s in?’ device, being a case in point. Whilst it serves a function to bring the audience on side it can undermine his apparent self-confidence and the narrative fluidity. Given the quality of the material and the skill in presentation it feels unnecessary.
At one stage his discussion with an audience member about politics revealed too much of Iain’s own views. Great care is needed in handling contentious topics, such as The Daily Mail. In a traditional stand up, the comedian can be ‘in your face‘ with the audience, the format allows it. In a storytelling show it strikes a discordant note.
Whether storytelling or comedy the performer always has an advantage over the audience because they are confident public speakers and they deal with this stuff all the time. If the performer goes too far then they run the risk of punching down, being seen as bullying and potentially divisive. Whilst politically I agree with everything Iain said, consideration should be given to steering away from contentious issues. It doesn’t fit the positive tone of the rest of the show.
The audience seemed to enjoy the show, and they had every right too. This is a good show performed by a talented storyteller. It’s nice, gentle almost comforting and definitely recommended.
As a side note I look forward to seeing what he does next. There is definitely more to come from Iain FM Smith.