Liam Williams: Bonfire Night

★★★★
comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 16 Aug 2015

Friday nights can be hard for the more inventive acts on the Fringe. Pulled in by high star ratings without necessarily having a clear idea of what they’re letting themselves in for, audiences can be bewildered by acts as reflexive, envelope-pushing and just plain weird as Liam Williams, as his somewhat frustrated performance tonight attests. That said, it’s impressive how many people Williams manages to take with him in this richly rewarding show that’s perhaps too clever by a quarter, if not a full half.

To take an illustrative example: Williams has a section on the wisdom of marrying young, which starts with a fairytale setup involving a wizard, lurches into a section of shocking, visceral body horror, moves through a wistful and poetic section set in his girlfriend’s flat and then ends with a shuddering moment of surreality involving a frog. Michael McIntyre this ain’t, but it’s bracingly funny stuff, and even the few punters who seem utterly alienated by it are at least brought halfway back in when Williams acknowledges their distress.

The title is dismissed as more or less irrelevant, but relates to the political strand running through the set. Williams sees himself as part of the "ironic" generation, unable to take life seriously enough despite knowing how many serious issues urgently demand his attention. A key image is Williams staring at a picture of a dead polar bear and trying to force himself to feel something. This pervasive air of hyper-aware impotence is sometimes as frustrating for the audience as it is for Williams himself; but plenty of belly laughs break through the fug, and anyone who’s felt a pang of guilt at buying a Pret tuna sandwich will find loads to enjoy here.