When you see Leo Kearse — and you should — there’s a very good chance it’ll be a four-star experience. Perhaps even five-stars, if he gets a good tailwind from an up-for-it audience and fewer distractions from passing venue staff, for whom having stand-up performed in the backroom appears to be an annoyance. However, I have to be honest about the show I saw on the night, rather than the one it’s 99% likely to become. Reviewing Preview shows is tricky, you see; especially on the Free Fringe, where everything’s that little bit rougher round the edges.
Kearse is a genuinely solid performer with just the right balance of on-stage bravado and self-depreciation.
“Are you ready to become more Right Wing?” Kearse asks enthusiastically, though it doesn’t inspire an energetic response given the lack of Tories — or at least people willing to admit to being Tories — in his audience. So it’s left to Kearse to explain how a Scottish, heterosexual white male raised in Dumfries, albeit by “hippy parents” who thought Leo an appropriate first name, appears to have committed the ultimate rebellion and become one of the few people on an Edinburgh stage this August to utter the words “Thatcher” and “hero” in the same sentence — and possibly mean it. Admittedly, Kearse is also the first to describe his show this evening as “a little bit of a shambles”; and yes, it did feel like a list — of reasons why he’s hacked off by Left Wingers, all desperate for something new to get pissed off about — rather than a carefully structured set.
Nor do many of Kearse’s points — about the Benefits system, Gentrification or Global Warming — really hold up against detailed scrutiny or thought — although he’s always ready to throw in the occasional surprise to keep us on our toes. Alas, while Kearse does makes some good points about different levels of privilege and discrimination, he is unlikely to live up to the promise of his show’s title. Make no mistake, though: even when not firing on all cylinders, Kearse is a genuinely solid performer with just the right balance of on-stage bravado and self-depreciation. Adaptable, imaginative and totally assured.