Henry Paker @ Assembly, George Square

Review by Ben Venables | 22 Aug 2016
  • Henry Paker

Guilty is a Fringe highlight 

Henry Paker could have been the next Quentin Blake. Henry Paker the illustrator, that is, who just happens to be the protagonist of Henry Paker the comedian's one-man play. The illustrator Henry helped put a murderer behind bars, but ever since then he's been ill at ease. He's on the Gaviscon – hitting it hard – and it's doing nothing to quell his rising levels of stomach acid. He also seems to have lost the ability to draw hands. What could it mean? Did he not help collar the real murderer?

Guilty is a suspense story which kicks off with Bernard Herrmann's score for North by Northwest, though soon becomes less Hitchcockian and told more in the cadence of a Raymond Chandler pastiche, with the spirit of Leslie Nielsen. If that's not enough there's a touch of Alan Partridge thrown into the mix too, especially in the illustrator's desperate attempts to keep his publishers happy.

As Henry pieces together the events surrounding the strange death of his life coach, the plot and characterisation take some playfully absurd twists. Though there's plenty of logic here too – a thought experiment involving a Lenny Kravitz body-swap is taken to its most extreme conclusion.

Just occasionally, it's possible that Paker relies on coincidence or the odd deux ex machina to get him out of a sticky plot hole. It's only possible rather than certain, however, because these surreal jumps add to the humour, in keeping with such a textured and charming hour. 

Henry Paker: Guilty, Assembly George Square Theatre (The Box), 3-28 Aug (not 14, 15 & 21), 8.20pm, £6-11