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James Acaster appears on stage at the start of his mystifyingly titled show to the deafening strains of that old hymn ‘To Be A Pilgrim’. It’s not entirely clear why this is; but this is a motif for the show. It’s not entirely clear why there’s an extended, very extended, riff on doing jury service, or why that sort of links in to nostalgia about a childhood as a Christian, and vaguely on into speculations about the meaning of life and the origins of the Universe. All of this slowed down by intervals of ‘banter’ with audience members, the poor folk in the front row being very close to the stage and in the danger zone for this kind of comedic cliché, which drags somewhat. If there’s one thing worse than putting down audience members instead of doing some actual comedy material, it’s doing it in slow motion. But not everyone thinks so. That people find the humiliation of others entertaining is one of humanity’s less attractive traits, but they do, a lot of them. Hence the Apprentice, I’m a Celebrity, throwing Christians to lions, etc. Strangely, this is something that Acaster himself later has a highly effective, if pot-kettle-black-calling, routine about. In general, he is unconcerned about how long it takes to get to some sort of a gag, and likes to play with his audience’s reactions; which can be endearing, and can be frustrating. But. But. In the end his real skill shows through as he does in fact bring all the strands together, the clever structure underneath all the apparent rambling becomes clear, and the point of the weirdness and seeming chaos comes to a satisfying conclusion for a highly original, if a tad over-long show.

 

 

**** – (4 Stars)

John Christopher Wood