Review of Preview of Headmaster's Son at XS Malarkey
Richard Herring @ XS Malarkey
WITH Edinburghâ€™s Fringe Festival looming, itâ€™s the feast before the famine for Manchesterâ€™s comedy circuit as stand-ups sharpen their anecdotes on smaller nationwide crowds.
Richard Herring is one of several comedians taking no chances, and Manchester is 14 dates into his lengthy warm-up schedule.
Itâ€™s no surprise, then, that thereâ€™s already more paper than cracks on his new show and that his opening diatribe on the comparative wonders of the Biblical ascension day is well practiced and completely arresting (â€œAnyone can get crucified,â€ he observes, â€œbut they donâ€™t all end up on a necklace. And anyone can come back from dead; just recently, that bloke in the canoeâ€¦â€).
The big topic of his latest stand-up show, though, is growing up with the headmaster. His belief? His dysfunctional love life, his non-conventional career path and his obsession with onanism-based jokes are the inevitable, rebellious consequences of spending his home and school life under the watchful gaze of his schoolteacher father.
It was, he observes, a bit like living with a comic-book character. â€œBut unlike Clark Kent and Superman, there was nothing to separate them. My dad wore glasses both as my dad and as the headmaster.â€
He recalls his childhood dreams, reading from old diaries that expose him as a naÃ¯ve â€“ if idealistic â€“ sex-obsessed teenager who felt he might have views as worthy as Ghandiâ€™s and be irresistible to his older-sisterâ€™s pretty friends.
Itâ€™s packed with exhaustingly pedantic, but hilarious, digressions and the end result is a classic Herring dialogue with â€œyoung Richardâ€, where he tugs at the possibilities of what life could have been.
And thereâ€™s plenty of topics too delicate to boil down to soundbites on a family website that take equally bleak stabs at Herringâ€™s misfiring private life.
Thereâ€™s still lots of work to be done, but this is not a tentative outing. At times, Headmasterâ€™s Son flows with mastered confidence, and when it doesnâ€™t thereâ€™s enough flickers of brilliance in the evolving script to prove it will be one of Herringâ€™s strongest shows yet when it opens in Edinburgh on July 31.
And yes, thereâ€™s a few grumbles at the back from those who donâ€™t understand the dynamics of an Edinburgh preview when Herring reaches for his script. Itâ€™s their loss; under all their mumbling, they miss how engaging Herring is as storyteller alone. Perfected gags or not.