Liam Williams, The Cellar Monkey, review: ‘An intelligent, funny and densely layered show’

Edinburgh Festival 2014: The comedian returns to the line-up once again

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The Independent Culture

There’s something compellingly contradictory about Liam Williams.

On the one hand, the 26-year old is a cynical observer of his peers, an old soul who scowls around the edge of house parties and scorns iPhones and other youthful trappings. On the other, he is as moulded by Angry Birds and Spotify as they are.

That split personality forms the heart of Capitalism, an intelligent, brilliantly funny and densely layered show that dissects depression one minute and offers up a supremely silly alternative World Cup anthem the next.

Last year Williams was up for the Best Newcomer award. Then, radiating angst and anger from the stage, it looked like he might not be cut out for stand-up, despite his obvious comedy talents. Now, newly confident, he almost looks like he’s enjoying himself. The writing is, once again, so lovely, so concise and precise, that you want to record it (“People say ‘George Orwell must be spinning in his grave.’ No. I think he’d be thinking, ‘Yes! I got it right!”), but this time he has control of the room, too. The laughs are loud and plentiful with just enough tension to keep it interesting.

Nibbling on a Flake, he explains that he wanted to do a big issues-driven show but was too lazy. He lays into corporate slogans, graffiti, technology and meditation with dry zeal but in the end, it’s about him. An on-stage alter-ego who heckles him might be an introspection too far but - and the phrase would surely make him wince - Williams is starting to sound like the voice of a generation.