Razz writer, Catherine Howie, went along to The Bike Shed Theatre to view their recent comedic act, James Mantel (an Exeter grad!). Here are her thoughts…
Evolution: A Love Story.
Retreating from the January wind and rain I welcomed the warmth, the charm and the intrinsic quirkiness of the Bike Shed. The stage was set simply, with nothing but a laptop to the side and a projected presentation on a plain curtain background. As a result, the audience’s attention was focused onto David Attenborough fanboy James Mantell and his comedy evening, part of Exeter’s LOL festival. Mantell instantly created suspense and mystery by appearing on stage through the curtains, this illusion however was instantly nullified as Mantell launched into an overzealous explanation as to how ‘this would not be a one man stand up show’ like we were all expecting, but rather ‘an interactive lecture where laughing would be a bonus.’
Whilst laughter was sustained throughout the act, it was nearly always a result of his blunders, mistakes and general failed attempt at organisation, opposed to quick and intelligent wit. Mantell came to rely on his cock-up crutch far too much – the more the mistakes happened, the more I began to question their authenticity and the possibility that they could have been scripted. In spite of this, there were moments where Mantell shone and the audience laughed with him rather than at him. By telling us about himself and by making his act personal, the audience seemed to connect with the University of Exeter Biological Sciences graduate in the close and happy atmosphere that he had created. This worked favourably as everyone seemed to be incredibly forgiving during his blundered stabs at discussing big issues, concerning his frustrations with science and religion. Subtlety and sophistication were required for these notions to be carried off convincingly. Whilst Mantell and his self confessed ‘buggered’ laptop lacked sufficient lustre and finesse, he seemed to get away with it.
You can catch James Mantell’s show again on 1st February. For more information click here!