Jack Whitehall: Learning Difficulties, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Thursday 12 August 2010
It seems that my review of Jack Whitehall's 2009 show riled the comedian a little. In this year's show he constructs a routine around my verdict, construing "technically sound" as a judgement on how well his technical desk performed. I'd like to think, of course, that getting riled is also one of the reasons behind this year's improved but still not all-conquering show.
Either way, the contrivance of the technically sound gag highlights why Whitehall's comedy can carry me only so far. It's the forced nature of a routine such as why La Rochelle was chosen by the Tricolore French textbook series that grates. The frenetic energy and mock indignation that carry this routine also go through everything else. It ends up making the comedic landscape as featureless as Whitehall suggests La Rochelle's is.
When his quick mind and his ire are focused on something grounded in the truth, such as his family hearth, things pick up. The image of his father "kerb-crawling" him to try to stave off his early teen runaway attempts, while shouting "I love you" from the car and offering him money, combines all that is good about Whitehall.
A truthful voice is needed when he deals with his recent skirmish with the tabloids over public cocaine use. It's an episode he handles well and the most apt ending to a show about learning from his mistakes.
Against the sweep of Whitehall's learning curve, both on stage and off stage, there is, though, the nagging thought that the 22-year-old might already be at the peak of his powers.
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