Wayne Thallon: Procreation
Nica Burns caused a stir recently by criticising free shows for providing "an absolutely terrible experience." Elsewhere, certain critics have criticised free shows, especially the Laughing Horse Free Festival, of being inadequately curated. Those statements infer that paid shows are carefully selected and produced, and that comedians who charge entry to their shows are all accomplished professionals.
That is quite demonstrably bullshit and Wayne Thallon's show is a pretty clear example. He's not terrible, he's got potential, but the Edinburgh-born filmmaker is clearly still at the open-spot level of the comedy world. His tales of drugs and shagging are, in both writing and delivery, exactly the kind of thing you'd hear in an average Red Raw set. There's enough good stuff in there to produce a decent set, but he has "only really got 20 minutes of material [which he is] pushing into a 50-minute or hour-long show."
The above quote is Nica Burns again, outlining what's wrong with the Free Festival. Thallon, however, is not in the Free Festival or the PBH Free Fringe, he's part of the Just The Tonic lineup at The Caves, charging £10 per ticket for a show that is simply not good enough. Tonight's audience mainly consists of people given a free ticket "because there's a reviewer in." They start slowly trickling away, walking out at regular intervals. They're bored rather than offended, but you imagine that they would be pretty goddamn offended if they'd had to pay upfront for this.
And Thallon is not a blip, not the one lousy show that slipped through the net. This happens frequently at the Fringe and Just The Tonic are especially guilty of padding out their programme of poor quality. Nobody curated this show, nobody watched it and said "we think you can provide a wonderful experience." It's here because Thallon could stump up the deposit for the room, just like many other acts who've crashed and burned at The Caves over the last few years. Meanwhile, Just The Tonic are boasting about having secured even more venues this year. If they can't fill their flagship venue with quality acts, why are they expanding out?
The worst thing here is that Thallon is offering all proceeds to the British Heart Foundation, a move prompted by a genuine desire to do something for his daughter who was born with a heart condition. If he had appeared in a free show, he'd have a bucket of money to donate each day. Hopefully he's been given the use of this room for free, otherwise he could have just written them a cheque for £5000 and stayed at home this August.