ComedyPulse FestivalReviewSouth EastSpoken Word

PULSE FESTIVAL: Live Before You Die – New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Writer: Byron Vincent
Reviewer: Paul Couch

By his early teens, Byron Vincent was sleeping rough and taking drugs. Then he sold them. Even from an early age, it seems his life was in a terminal decline of nihilistic behaviours born partly from his upbringing on one of Britain’s roughest sink estates and partly from his bipolar illness. Later, he became an alcoholic too and his fate as a statistic seemed sealed.

The Vincent we see today is a different animal. “It’s been six months since I had a drink or a psychotic episode,” he tells us proudly at the end of his show, Live Before You Die, and we believe him. Images projected behind him and his best friend and wing-man, Dave McGinn, show a previous Vincent – pallid and chubby-faced. The man who swaggers around the stage before us has a far healthier complexion, is leaner and far more confident.

He’s now a writer, poet and an evangelist on the subject of mental health. But the 40-year-old’s (looking for all the world 15 years younger) story isn’t just about redemption from his own demons, there’s more to it than that. It’s about friendship, about how just because someone regularly refers to you as “dickhead”, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you like a brother. McGinn has no doubt seen the best and worst of his friend over the 15 years they’ve been mates, but he’s still here, being the voice of reason and probably one of the anchors that’s kept Vincent alive.

If there’s any criticism of Live Before You Die, it’s in the staging. While Vincent is constantly on the move, McGinn is, for the most part, immobile behind a desk, using a laptop to trigger images and film to run behind them. McGinn is more softly spoken than Vincent and this seated position (constricted diaphragm and all that) means that it’s difficult to hear everything he says. Far better to have had one of those tall café tables over which they could ruminate a-la Smith & Jones, giving the audience a better feel for the deep friendship that these men clearly share.

Nevertheless, an uplifting and inspiring hour spent in the company of friends whose love-hate relationship has clearly been the making of them both. Even if they are dickheads.

Reviewed on 6 June 2017 | Image: Contributed  |  @pulseipswich #pulse17

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