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Edinburgh Festival review – Nick Helm

Saturday, August 20 2011

A similar show to last year but still massively enjoyable and with plenty of brilliant touches

Nick Helm

Nick Helm was quite the surprise package last year, his bombastic piledriver of a show having some of the most memorable moments of any show.

This year's one is a similar concoction of cheesy one-liners and life-affirming rock sing-a-longs, all shoved down your throat by an occasionally terrifying Helm. His persona has the desperation and intensity of Johnny Vegas, as if we are witnessing a breakdown with our very eyes.

He picks a favourite and a nemesis from the front row – this is definitely a show in which to keep inconspicuous – and you wonder which you would rather be. His favourite, Carl, is pretty much humiliated for our entertainment, getting ever more awkwardly intimate with each stunt.

The bombastic start, the breakdown and the eventual redemption from the wreckage are all bookmarked by songs, and Helm clearly has rock star pretensions. His voice is so gravelly you could line a fish tank with it. Funnily enough, I thought the musical numbers didn't live up to the rest of it. For instance, the anthemic opener seems a touch too slow and low-pitched to be truly anthemic and a rap about things that annoy him is already a comedy cliché.

But there are more than enough brilliant touches for this not to be an issue. I liked the simple but effective bullying of his band, the increasingly tactile advances towards Carl, and the few startling costume changes. I love his letter to a playground bully that brings the pace down, resets the tone to dignified, and comes with a brilliant pay-off. He takes a risk, and pulls it off.

You have to admire Helm's balls. He puts himself on the line in a way few comedians do. His intensity and bruised romanticism is completely convincing, and even if you saw his show last year, despite feeling similar, this one is just as memorable.

4 stars

Nick Helm: Dare To Dream is on at 4pm at the Pleasance Courtyard.

What the punters say

Sarah, Kent: 2/5. "I didn't really like it, it wasn't my thing. I think I prefer normal stand-up."
RIchard, Aberdeen: 4/5. "Very funny, I've never seen anything like that before, he was screaming in people's faces at the beginning."

Review written by Paul Fleckney


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