Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Fringe Review - Jason Cook: Joy, Stand 4, 24/08/2008

In the last twelve months Jason Cook has experienced the happiest day of his life, and the saddest. The experience has taught him to embrace life, to take the good from every day, and to capture every fleeting moment of joy and celebrate it, and it's a message he wants to communicate to each and every one of us.

The show, essentially, revolves around these two incidents, and leads us from one to the other. The first, his marriage, introduces us to his madcap family, his slightly racist gran, his sock-obsessed mother, and his pragmatic, sea-faring, Christmas-loving dad who will become the central character in this tale. And, of course, his beautiful new wife, through whose introduction into this madhouse, and to the concept that the Cook family are plagued with bad luck, we are led to the second event.

This is a beautifully structured show. Cook quickly establishes his credentials as a kind of loveable everyman character, and the warmth with which he introduces us into his life is infectious. Lavishly illustrating his tales with family snapshots, he leaves his audience in no doubt that, although they may be embellished slightly, his stories are essentially true ones and not some flights of fancy, and that is vital to the impact of what is going to come.

Right at the top of the show he tells us that there will be a heavy moment, and asks us to raise our hands if we think we have spotted it. It's a clever move, because when that moment comes it helps to break the tension, and that moment is a doozie, a real heartbreaker that, even if you were already aware of what was coming, causes a lurch in the gut that could kill a show stone dead in lesser hands. But in Cook's, it merely takes it in a new direction which builds slowly towards a gloriously joyful climax.

As Cook himself explains during the show, he spends most of his year working the Northern comedy circuit, MCing and gigging in clubs whose clientelle came to hear him tell cock jokes and really don't give a crap about the rest. An Edinburgh show is his chance to stretch himself, to tell personal stories and create something more meaningful. His last show ended up touring around the festivals for much of the year. I truly hope the same happens this time, because this is a story that deserves to be heard.

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