Reviewer: Jay Nutall
It’s a tough ask to announce yourself as the “Genius Simon Evans” prior to walking onstage. Immediately acknowledging this dilemma it feels like we will be in the safe hands of a comedian wishing to deconstruct intelligence and aptitude – nothing particularly original as David Gorman currently has a television series of the same name but one may hope that Evans may unearth some unique insight with his usual dry and acerbic comedy.
Evans, although a circuit comedian for years, is not a comedian you may be familiar with unless an avid listener of BBC Radio 4. With television writing credits and occasional appearances on prime time television stand-up slots he undoubtedly sources his audience from his regular appearances on Radio 4’s The News Quiz or his own The Way It Is.
Evans is an unapologetic white middle-aged, middle class, educated and verbose comedian with much to say about the way he sees the world. Similar to Jack Dee’s stage presence he is a harsh critic who takes no prisoners. However, unlike Dee, it is unclear where his onstage persona finishes and Simon Evans starts. The result is a comedian who is somewhat difficult to warm to. This is not helped by an ill-judged quip about not being able to distinguish between a prostitute and a group of women on a night out as part of a hen do. The joke feels like it is from another era and despite a laugh in the room at the time it leaves a sour taste that Evans struggles to overcome.
His material never really sparkles. Covering tried and tested ground of ageing, parenting, relationship and cats and dogs, his set struggles to engage the audience throughout the first half. That said, Evans has two very funny teases with his audience at the beginning of each half. He almost introduces a non-existent warm-up act only to decry that he would do no such thing as he would much prefer to ‘pull the ladder up’ rather than help an up and coming comic. And secondly, he declares that his reasoning for writing the show in the first place is as a response to the death of his father – who he soon quickly admits is still alive! Black comedy that Evans obviously relishes.
At the beginning of his show, Evans worries that he is perhaps becoming a grumpy old man. At the age of 52, he looks physically different from the comedian performing a few years ago. Thinned hair, grey beard and rimless spectacles propel him into feeling like a slightly older generational comic. It is not until the second half that he begins to deliver his material from his one hour Edinburgh show. And it takes an awfully long time for Evans to reach the point of the title of his show – so called as a response to Brexit for individuals, and perhaps the country, to have the courage of their convictions. In a society that is increasingly normalised, he calls for those with individual, perhaps eccentric, voices to speak up and for the UK to maybe ‘reboot’ and have an ‘uber-Brexit’ plan.
With an extensive vocabulary and a voice akin to a Colonel or Sargent Major, Evans has a rather difficult task when it comes to softening his persona in order to win over his audience. And although he admits that he may sound like he is going to rant like a grumpy old man one hopes that his diatribe may actually have an ironic or tongue-in-cheek quality. Unfortunately, it becomes the manifesto of an actual grumpy old man.
Reviewed on 16 March 2018 | Image: Contributed