The Importance of Being Anxious – Camden Fringe, Museum of Comedy

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Writer: Hal Cantor

Director: Ralph Bogard

While Hal Cantor lists “One Man Shows” as a source of anxiety for himself, they really are a fantastic medium through which a properly personal and intimate story can be told. This one in particular promises a journey through mental health, sexuality and general massive life change. Cantor has a wealth of material, that much is obvious, but needs to recognise what to leave out in order to let the main elements breathe. 

It also has to be noted, apart from a rather excellent pun at the conclusion, there’s nothing recognisable from Wilde’s work that inspires the title. What we have here is a one man show that is open and heartfelt, biographical and vulnerable. It touches on his anxiety, his sexuality and relatively tumultuous journey to come to terms with it, and the loss of a close friend. All big things, none of which is given fair treatment. 

The general feeling is one of a good and funny writer who’s not used to the stage lights, and who also could make use of the services of an editor. Some jokes that must have looked good on paper come off with stilted delivery as either flat or corny. Some “bits” with promise are used as throwaway gags (a title sequence and theme song for a game show “The Price of Being Bi” holds a lot of potential but just disappears), and there are points where momentum is totally lost – like the section on dating apps. And every PowerPoint presenter knows you can’t engage an audience just by reading the text that’s on the slides.

It needs a smoother flow from these three interesting thematic blocks and the material needs a scrub to translate it from something aimed at a US audience to something that would resonate here. References to life and culture in LA and NYC are fine, but generate here that odd laugh of people who know enough to know it’s a funny line, but don’t know enough to know why. 

Cantor has clearly thought about his subject matter in a deep and perceptive way, and is a funny guy. There’s fascinating little barbs thrown in that catch the imagination perfectly. When, for example, discussing how one knows if one is straight, gay, bi, or somewhere else in the range he wonders if intimacy-needs can eclipse sexual orientation.  

It’s an interesting collection of ideas but as we leave it’s unclear what the main one is. Curating these ideas and marshalling their comedic and emotional strength towards an identified direction would do wonders. 

Reviewed on 5 August 2022

The Camden Fringe runs from 1-28 August 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Lots of potential, but needs an editor 

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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