Caimh McDonnell: Southbound and Down @ Cabaret Voltaire
Caimh McDonnell knows that laughing at other people’s misfortunes is a wicked pleasure (Boris Johnson stuck on a zip wire springs happily to mind), and he’s more than happy to serve up tales of his own woes for our delectation. From a botched mugging to a horrific case of constipation, McDonnell’s anecdotes about his doomed move to London prove there’s nothing like a bit of schadenfreude to get one’s comedy juices flowing. His warm and endearing stage presence, all ruffled white hair and cuddly frame, helps to establish an easy rapport with his audience, and his ability to riff off retorts is impressive.
On the downside, McDonnell relies a little too heavily on cultural stereotypes, with many a gag revolving round rude Londoners, shrill Scousers, sullen Brummies and bumpkin Bristolians (what is it with comedians doing patronising impressions of Bristolians? Russell Howard’s a repeat offender and he’s from Bristol). McDonnell writes for Mock the Week and it’s clear to see; his fast-paced, slightly shouty style can be witnessed on a number of blokey panel shows, and it’s perhaps not best suited to this particular kind of stand-up. A gentler, more conversational approach might better serve his self-effacing confessions.
Despite this, there’s an honesty and sweetness to McDonnell’s loveable-shambles persona that makes Southbound and Down a real (and free) Fringe treat. In the end, we’re not so much laughing at his moments of shame as laughing with him at life’s absurdities, and even though his move to London wasn’t so triumphant, his sojourn in Edinburgh surely will be.