Writer: Chris Martin
Reviewer: Gemma Corden
There’s a distinct buzz around Chris Martin. The young Londoner’s 2011 Edinburgh Fringe debut was a sell-out and, after supporting the likes of Milton Jones and Russell Kane, he took to the road last year with his first UK tour. That buzz has travelled to mac’s atmospherically compact Hexagon theatre.
The premise for tonight’s show offers a slight departure from the usual stand-up fare, with Martin creating a routine underpinned by an original score. The intention is to explore how music can impact upon the experience of a comedy show as a whole in the way a soundtrack does in a movie. While this concept works to an extent – helping to make any gaps in-between gags a little less awkward and, when the music stops, adding impact to punchlines – the overall effect gets a bit lost.
In fact, the advertised soundtrack doesn’t make an appearance until the second half with Martin, for the first, acting as his own warm-up act. Although a little confusing to those expecting some opening chords, his stage presence is immediately commanding and he creates a relaxed atmosphere – as if being in the pub with friends. His interaction with the (tiny) audience is very natural and he has everyone laughing – but then the audience, although intimidating in its proximity to the stage, isn’t exactly a tough crowd. Martin’s self-effacing patter draws some genuinely hilarious parallels between his parents’ marriage and his own recent nuptials, and the audience is warmed up nicely for the main event.
But after some strong opening second-half material about an embarrassing miscommunication between him and his then-girlfriend based on the action film Taken, set against a nicely paced score, Martin seems to abandon the advertised theme of his show and falls back into his meandering, observation-based talk while the music takes a back seat. Less of a soundtrack and more like someone’s phone ringing in the background it, if anything, distracts from the spoken content. Perhaps giving some structure to the stories he has could help the soundtrack concept to fly.
But disappointing gimmick aside, Martin is quite frankly brilliant. There is an unaffected openness to both his written material and delivery of it that is not only brave in its disarming honesty, but also so finely observed that not only does he make you laugh, he (at risk of sounding glib) makes you think a bit, too. What is refreshing is how he manages to realise this popular brand of wry observation steeped in topical social and cultural commentary without any of the pretension of other comics.
Martin is clearly a talented writer and shines when he channels his self-reflection outwards with his intelligent eye – one feels if he were to develop this strength, and steer away from the easy trappings of ‘bro banter’ that he occasionally hides behind, he will go far. At only 29 years of age and already an accomplished performer, Martin may not be shaking up stand-up quite yet, but there’s real promise here.
Reviewed on 19 February 2016 and on tour | Image: Contributed