Mediocre White Male ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review by Tony Frame. Group: Will Close and Joe von Malachowski. Venue 139 @ Assembly Roxy – Central

When Mediocre White Male started I thought I was going to have to sit through an hour-long historical drama, set around the middle-ages. The solo show starring Will Close momentarily perplexed me as he stood there, on stage, dressed in full attire from that post-Elizabethan era; a ruffle-neck collar and knee-length breeches, like a white-washed Jester. It was supposed to be a contemporary play, I thought, as he began to give an opening statement about ‘a tale full of despair and treachery’ (I’m paraphrasing here) in a classically-versed voice, only to then instantly snap out of character and then address the audience as a normal guy. Ah, I said to myself. He’s playing a character, hence the outfit and…well, I’ve got it now, now I can relax.

Close keeps everyone’s attention by running straight into a risqué topic (in today’s climate) regarding gender and sexism and confusion about pronouns and the way we address people. It brings some nervous laughter from the audience as to where he is going to go with such a delicate subject matter, but it’s quickly remedied when it becomes apparent that this is not Will Close doing stand-up in Tudor fashion, but rather another character recounting an incident that happened at his workplace.

What follows is a well crafted intricate story, brooding away, with a dark undertone running beneath the surface, filled with multiples layers, full of intrigue and mystery, with vivid descriptions of people and places and excellently timed jokes and hilarious character shifts. On top of that there’s beautifully rich and vibrant characters, like Kit-Kat (yes, like the chocolate), which reminded me of Bukowski’s novel Ham on Rye in places.

For an hour’s running time this show doesn’t drag, nor does it feel monotonous at all, with Close commanding the stage effortlessly and keeping everyone engaged with his sublime performance as a troubled man who is racked with guilt and at odds with his conscience and his interpretation of the past. There’s a great rhythm to the tale, with a couple of suspenseful cliff-hangers, and there’s a few smart reveals and twists and turns in the plot that makes it one of the best shows I’ve seen at the Fringe in the ten years of seeing them.

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