Nick Helm: Keep Hold of the Gold, Soho Theatre, London
Nick Helm's brash and bullish show, which broadly depicts a clumsy, heart-on-sleeve romantic having a meltdown, was one of the finds of last year's Edinburgh festival. The antics of a man resembling Nick Frost playing a sergeant
major in an Elvis shirt provided a much-needed injection of energy for Fringe-goers and tonight's young audience is equally up for it.
"This is happening!" bawls Helm, using one his many mock threatening motivational phrases. After a playful opening in which Helm gets rid of the only four jokes he claims to have, (one of which runs: "My flatmate got turned to stone in my kitchen. I told him not to stare at me juicer [Medusa]"), the burly performer breaks the ice with a nice twist on en masse audience participation. It takes a while to set up, as he says afterwards "it's hard writing an hour!", but, without spoiling it, it's an indulgence we enjoy because we are all part of it.
Elsewhere, we are asked to indulge Helm in repeating a favourite line from a joke setup to see how far it stretches, a familiar ruse of which I am not a fan. Still, Helm is out to test limits, not least those of the female "volunteer" he selects to have a conversation with via a string-phone contraption in order to get her number. This exposure of his clumsy wooing perhaps goes on a little too long but Helm is careful that the bombastic nature of this and other material is levelled elsewhere, mainly via the gift of biscuits.
Other treats offered include a series of rock ballads that are chorus heavy but amuse as much for their Pearl Jam-style vocal straining as they do for lyrical wonder. Other than the songs there a couple of silly poems, including one in which he pushes romantic notions too far. Like a lot of material here, it promises more gold to come even if some routines need a polish.
Now touring (www.nickhelm.co.uk)
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