Pleasance Courtyard (venue 33)
3rd-28th Aug (not 15th)
Tom Allen is a personably posh gay with middle class suburban roots who, after some recent television slots, is one of the hot ticket comedians at this year’s Fringe. A recent break-up has seen him experience the modern phenomenon of being someone in their 30’s forced to move back to their parental home. On one hand this is a shame as Allen comes across as perfect boyfriend material – funny, handsome, able to get on with ladies called Joyce, and knows a stylish couch when he sees one (I have space in my gorgeous Victorian Edinburgh tenement if Tom ever considers permanently escaping north of the border). On the other hand, this regression has also provided perfect fodder for a show that mines material from the trappings of suburbia and resurfacing childhood memories of the 90’s.
Allen is often described as being the “acceptable” face of gay entertainment, easily filed next to Graham Norton and perfect for straights wanting to prove they “are down with the poofs.” Ignoring how obviously offensive this could be, it’s not hard to imagine Allen, with his clipped Kenneth Williams style diction, discovering a love of cravats as he approaches middle age and a regular talk-show couch. Indeed, the audience for this show seemed largely straight but still found the first small section of his show, focused on his gayness, relatable and funny. However, judging by my solitary laugh, ChemSex probably hasn’t yet entered the heterosexual vernacular.
All segments in this show stem from Allen being locked in a downstairs loo in a suburban semi, so there is plenty of crude toilet humor and physical comedy moments where this excitable performer builds up and feeds off the energy in the room. He is particularly good when mimicking the various characters in his stories – driving instructors and ex-childhood friends especially – and connects with the audience extremely well. He is a confident performer and crams in jokes, asides and audience rebuttals faster than flying down a flume in a 90’s subtropical swimming paradise.
And yes, anyone who actually did grow up in the 90’s is going to find themselves chortling and nodding along at all of Allen’s observations about this very special era. If you are gay, and also hung out in the music room during lunch at high school – probably even more so. With a show packed full of strong material I’m guessing it shouldn’t be too long before Tom is (camply) waving goodbye to his parents, Joyce, and suburbia once again.