DAMIAN Williams is better known to Sheffield as the dame in the city’s main annual panto, but the big man brings a taste of the bitter-sweet with the laughs in Ron Aldridge’s play, part of the Grin Up North comedy festival.
We meet a stand-up comic retracing his life and the actions that brought him to this point: backstage, preparing for his début stand-up gig.
In an endearing ramble which could almost seem pointless at times, Williams ad-libs to the audience while appearing to try out jokes, culminating in the actual stand-up performance.
His comedian may not be a particularly sympathetic character but he certainly gets the audience laughing – “I love the sound of people laughing,” he says, evident by the way his face lights up. The boundary between comedian and actor is sometimes blurred but in no way detracts from the play and only serves to relax the audience enough to fully enjoy themselves.
By contrast, the second act takes a sharper turn, uncovering all manner of revelations and managing to stay unpredictable. The almost non-stop stream of jokes – about the wife, the house, the job – start to become real and, all too often, sad.
The finale has a particular twist which leaves the crowd oddly silent and the impact is something not frequently found in comedy shows; the light-hearted feel of the first act only serves to heighten the tension now running through the second.
The timing is perfect and when the lights dim at the end, it’s difficult to know quite what to think.