JOHN PENDAL: HOW TO ESCAPE STUFF

Wed 2nd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Helen Chatterton

at 11:25 on 7th Aug 2017

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Self-proclaimed nice guy John Pendal’s stand-up comedy show, ‘How to Escape Stuff’ is centred around his previous secret hobby of escapology, and is certainly an entertaining way to pass an hour. However, the production is far more interesting than hilariously funny.

The show got off to a good start, with Pendal greeting everyone at the door, and apologising that the small room would soon grow to be very warm. He also took the time to assure the audience that he would not be picking on anybody, much to widespread visible relief. He then tried to persuade people to move to the front three rows, which the audience complied with.

The show started with Pendal showing the audience a number of pictures of his very cute cats. From there, the photos got less adorable, as he showed us some photographs of him during previous sessions where he would attempt to escape being bound up. Whilst the nature of such could have meant for a seedy air, the discussion instead sounded very matter of fact.

At times, some of Pendal’s jokes felt a little old, such as those often heard at drag shows, and reliance on the typical mocking of politicians and religious leaders. This did however, ensure laughter. Some jokes fell flat the first time of being said, either due to their content or sometime slightly rushed delivery, and did not become any funnier on their repetition. Oddly, Pendal chose to repeat the jokes that had had the worse reception throughout the show. Other jokes gained more success, but raised chuckles opposed to hysteria.

That being said, the show was undoubtedly extraordinarily interesting, with Pendal discussing means of escaping being tied up, using two practical demonstrations with the audience’s volunteered help. First, he showed us how to escape rope handcuffs, and later discussed the marvellous qualities of a product could vet tape. Anecdotes about his previous escapades were also very engaging as well as amusing. Pendal could easily have retained my attention for another hour.

His delivery was such that you couldn’t help but like him, and at the end of the show, Pendal shook everyone’s hand and invited people up to the bar if they had any questions or wanted to play around with any of his ropes or tapes. In such a small venue, the awareness of its intimacy was refreshing and necessary.

Whilst his comedy was not mind-blowingly original or sidesplittingly funny, Pendal does have some golden titbits. This was a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon. However, that Pendal tried to tie up his show into a sort of moral message felt a little cringy, was generally unnecessary, and seemed like a bit of an afterthought.

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Claire Louise Richardson

at 11:37 on 7th Aug 2017

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In John Pendal’s one-man piece called ‘How to Escape Stuff’ we are told all about his ‘secret hobby’ of ten years – escapology. This involves escaping from the confines of ropes and handcuffs, which Pendal tells the audience is essentially a type of problem solving; ‘I was always that kid in the playground with a rubix cube’. He is entirely lovely and enthusiastic, but this is a little more like a documentary than a stand up show.

The material itself was fascinating for someone who does not like confined spaces or the idea of escapology as a hobby; there were anecdotes relating to Star Trek and Pendal’s in Clown School, as well as others about Pendal’s past running demonstrations and a nod to his feature in the Assassins Creed, typing a character up. He even divulgences with audience with some of his own personal escapist experiences in the bedroom, explaining that his swollen hands made him look like Mickey Mouse, after an encounter with a real American cowboy. It is so much more than ropes and handcuffs, and he really introduces us to the variety of his art. It was refreshing that, were he to confront difficult subject matter, he would show us a picture of his cats, on a big board, to lighten the mood.

If anything, Pendal is too hard on himself, earnestly pleading that we laugh at his jokes, or join him for a drink later in the bar, or insisting that he’s not sure where he is on the spectrum because ‘he’s the whole rainbow’ (this was also a joke). He should let the show carry itself and have more confidence because everyone in the room was engaged and he was creating unnecessary, awkward pauses. Pendal needs to relax into (what he does not seem to realise) is quite a fun hour spent for everyone involved.

Overall, Pendal certainly sold escapology to the audience, but perhaps Pendal belongs better in the escapology circuit with his ‘lucky pants’ and ‘naughty shoes’, rather than on a run as a comedy piece. He also would make a good sort of life coach, as he discussed in the latter part of the play the positive ways in which escaplogy had impacted his life – this is not just a testosterone fuelled game to unleash yourself from restraint as fast as possible, but a meditative art that teaches one to always approach life with a plan, to learn to deal with any misdirection we confront, and to trust in ourselves, that we can achieve that which we set out to. Thank you, John.

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