Friday, December 1

Nathan Cassidy: Bumblebee – Salford Arts Theatre

Being a theatre reviewer asked to write about a comedy gig is a tricky proposition. Does one deconstruct the jokes, analyse the structure and critique the persona of the main protagonist? In the case of ‘Bumblebee’, the new show from the self-deprecatingly titled ‘award nominee’, Nathan Cassidy, all such considerations are superfluous, just sit back and watch a very talented and funny man construct a jigsaw puzzle, where all the pieces neatly slot into place at the end of an hour in his company.

The purported premise of ‘Bumblebee’ is the rash decision Cassidy makes following the burglary of his flat, to pursue the thief. To the strains of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’, he gives chase, and it is the random thoughts that occur to him during this pursuit form the real heart of the show. Encompassing everything from Netflix serial killers to the trials of his childhood, he examines his relationship growing up with a step family and modern attitudes to authority and society at large.

What was refreshing was the intelligence of the show, evidenced throughout by the detailed structure that has gone into the writing and staging. This paid off in small ways throughout the evening, with seemingly random asides early in the piece later revisited and providing great comic reward. These gobbets were scattered like small breadcrumbs for us to find our way through the dense structure and rewarded careful attention. This format worked particularly well when discussing his relationship with his stepfather, recently diagnosed with vascular dementia; the early anger with him giving way to obvious love and understanding of the condition as the show reached its conclusion.

The sparse audience at the Salford Arts Theatre were rewarded for venturing to this less gentrified area of Greater Manchester with an intimate and highly original show. Hecklers were chastised for their lack of volume and comedy timing and interaction with the audience was constant and felt very fresh and unforced. Cassidy has an affable quality (despite his resemblance to a bearded James Blunt), and he always manages to maintain his genial persona even when forced away from his ‘stream of consciousness’ delivery.

Stand-up comedy in the post pandemic world will get very tiresome very quickly. Endless jokes about hoarding toilet paper, zoom quizzes and clapping the NHS will date extremely quickly. It is the credit of Cassidy that he has chosen to pivot away from such obvious material and formulate a show which was funny, astute surprisingly warm hearted.

Reviewer: Paul Wilcox

Reviewed: 25th September 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★