After 24 years on the comedy circuit, Tony Burgess knows how to handle a crowd. This afternoon's may be of a disappointingly modest number, but he nevertheless puts everyone at ease and delivers a candid, intimate monologue without amplification.
His debut fFinge show is billed as an hour of storytelling, but could more accurately be described as a grab bag of overlapping anecdotes. Casting his mind back to the now distant Christmas of 2003, Burgess recalls the day's family dinner and uses it as a point from which to make several digressions relating to his close family members. Eventually, he says, we will learn how he became the carer of an autistic nephew.
This promised narrative never quite materialises. Instead, we get a warm and nostalgic account of what it was like to belong to a troubled but loving family in the north of England throughout the last few decades. Severe mental illness has plagued the Burgess clan and the subject is handled here with touching compassion, even as the comic indulges in gallows humour. It's a delight to spend part of the afternoon in his company, but there's something unsatisfying about the manner in which the comic assembles stand-alone routines into a whole, adding only weak obsertvations to the mix. There's no sense of momentum pushing Crimbo forward, and so this feels like an amiable back and forth between past and present, lasting only until the performer runs out of energy and interest.