Carl Donnelly: Bad Man Tings - Review

November 29, 2016 | Norwich Playhouse, Norwich

Edinburgh Fringe favourite CARL DONNELLY came to Norwich Playhouse this week as part of his UK tour, to present his observational comedy ramblings to the people of Norfolk for a personal, intimate show about his life and experiences, but mostly about himself: BAD MAN TINGS.

The show started quietly rather than with a bang, with Carl stumbling onto the stage, appearing nervous, like a newcomer to comedy or perhaps his own warm-up act, commenting on how the audience was larger than he was used to – despite being in the business for a decade. However, this clear initial vulnerability served to bring the audience to his side, and support him while he grew more confident over the course of ninety minutes.

With the aid of semi-frequent interactions with the crowd – which were more occasional supportive contributions to a group chat, rather than awkward or negative heckles – and Carl’s natural boyish charm, he quickly built a natural relationship with the Norwich audience. Unlike a lot of modern loud, attention-seeking comics, Carl’s familiar, casual style came across like he was chatting to a bunch of mates down the pub, and appropriately enough, the content was lacking in intellectually-challenging content, being not too far from banter between mates down the boozer.

Now in his thirties, Carl explained he no longer gets up to the youthful “scrapes” of his younger days, nor does he have any of the mental health issues that troubled him not so long ago. This meant the material was mostly self-deprecating observational humour, fluctuating between the light and dark to the somewhat coarse. During the show, he explained his issues with people not understanding the concept of being a vegan, and his inability to resist unnecessary purchases, like his new spiralizer. Then he went on to destroy the romantic notion of “the one”, his feelings towards his somewhat cold parents, followed by explaining his unique method of secretly releasing trapped wind, and his also flatulence-related experience of yoga classes.

To be fair, Carl is definitely skilled at stand-up: he’s quite capable in spinning a comic yarn out of the thinnest of material, but this did mean that during the show, occasionally the build-up was better than the eventual pay-off.  Also, drawing from his personal life experiences made him very relatable, particularly to younger comedy fans, but future shows might be better once he learns to branch out to talk about things other than himself.

All in all, though, Bad Man Tings is not a bad show. Enjoyable, amusing – if not packed with out-and-out hilarity, Carl has got huge potential. As Carl himself said, he’s “not the most professional act, but (he’s) got (his) own charm”.

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