EFR - Reviews of Geoff Norcott: Conswervative

Geoff Norcott: Conswervative

Wed 3rd – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Lizzie Buckman

at 00:43 on 6th Aug 2016

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Creating a stand-up comedy show entitled ‘Conswervatism’ was always going to be a high risk strategy for Geoff Norcott, given that the Edinburgh Fringe is probably one of the most dense congregations of the left wing voting population in Britain. It was an uphill struggle for Norcott to win round his crowd, yet it was a struggle that he met with admirable finesse and friendliness.

Norcott begins with an uncomfortably, yet nonetheless humorously, underwhelming entrance to the stage; this was a trend which seemed to be retained throughout the show: uncomfortable, yet nonetheless humorous. I say uncomfortable because Norcott’s subject matter is largely political, touching on a lot of contemporary hot topics like the junior doctors’ strikes, benefit fraud and perhaps most controversially, Brexit. However, rather than taking the safe left-wing route he chooses the rockier path of ‘conswervatism’. His ironic praise of the skill behind benefit fraud and advocacy of ‘tough love’ when tackling obesity treads a fine line between funny and offensive, and it often remains unclear on which side of that line he actually falls.

Naturally he was never going to win the crowd round to his political perspective in the space of a single hour, but thankfully it doesn't ever feel like that is the aim. Norcott even includes a ‘heckle amnesty’ midway through the show, and whilst questions such as “Why did you vote leave?” are not the most conducive lead into a joke, he handles them with good humour, a genuine understanding, and humility.

This being said, the most successful parts of the show are the physical gags, impressions and personal anecdotes. His reminiscence about his experience as a school teacher is refreshingly unifying, giving Norcott his first chance to connect with the crowd and lower the defensive front that politics so often necessitates. It is here that his true skill as a comedian was apparent- we caught sight of what he is really capable of.

'Conswervatism' looks at the political situation with determined cynicism, and a couple of the jokes fall short waiting for laughter than never quite comes. Norcott has given himself a challenge, tackling both political and also highly personal issues, yet he approaches them with enough distance and cynicism that it is difficult to take any offence, and very easy to laugh along with him, and perhaps even a little at ourselves.

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Julia O'Driscoll

at 08:11 on 6th Aug 2016

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Geoff Norcott could’ve divided the crowd; aware of the Fringe’s more politically left-leaning audience, he is ready for heckling and verbal abuse, even admitting he isn’t surprised by the assumption that he resembles a “racist electrician from Billericay”. Yet, he skilfully keeps the audience on-side without shying away from controversial topics: clinical depression, disability, the NHS and (of course) Brexit - to name but a few…

Although the show is politically themed, Norcott’s colourful impressions and characterisations of colleagues, pupils, and hipsters drinking milk sitting in side-cars in Surrey keeps the mood light and the energy up. He defends his potentially controversial political standpoint with outrageous anecdotes, as he instructs the audience on how to masterfully execute benefit fraud and how prosthetics have really come on in the last thirty years. He steers his crowd through different vivid episodes of his life as a way of leading them to an understanding of why even Norcott is not sure how he has come to be a Conservative voter. He remains aware of his audience throughout, even dropping in the odd apology to the Radio 4 listeners in the crowd, and invites questions which he considers seriously before addressing humorously.

However, at times I found his sweeping generalisations just more offensive rather than funny. Admitting to having voted leave but wanting to get his son an Irish passport (just in case!) just doesn't go down as well as it might have done pre-Brexit, and claiming it was harder to be a Tory than homosexual growing up is received with uncertain chuckles. Equally, however, Norcott does point out that when he came up with the show’s concept in February he never envisaged our current political landscape, which certainly makes the show more of a gamble for both comedian and audience.

Overall, the structure of 'Conswervative' is strong. The delivery is consistently amusing and there are subtle moments which hint at real genius. His very accurate observations of the public are recognisable and relatable: as he knowingly points out, “we’ve all got that friend who…”. It is also refreshing to see a comedian who, without going too deeply into the politics, is saying something different. Whether you agree with his views or not, Norcott is undeniably likeable, and his tactic - that “ill-informed opinions work best” – seems fairly accurate. I left wanting to bump into him somewhere during the Fringe to pick his brains further, even if just for a few more fantastic family stories.

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