Alpha Fail

Cormac Friel’s hour-long set on masculinity, relationships and competitiveness is full of sparkling one-liners and cheerful narration, but suffers from his tendency to rush through his carefully prepared material.

He is on the verge of saying some very interesting things indeed about the pervasive segregation of the adjectives ‘gay’ and ‘masculine’

Friel has a likeable stage presence and a raft of funny, embarrassing stories to tell. When he puts faith in his material, he delivers punchlines with a gleeful relish. He really excels with stories about his competitive, begrudging nature and the ‘therapy’ he undertakes to counteract sibling rivalry. One extremely funny tale (which thankfully has not stayed in Las Vegas) has him cleverly drawing together different strands of the show – his fantasies, his conceptions of masculinity and his competitiveness – leaving his audience in stitches.

His examination of masculinity from a gay perspective is intriguing – if it weren’t so short it could be a real highlight. At first he describes his indifference towards ‘non-masculine’ pursuits like decorating, fashion and dancing. This isn’t game-changing news, really, but in the remarkable section which follows, Friel reveals the epitome of this indifference: his paradoxical desire not to be allowed into gay clubs on the grounds that he appears ‘too straight.’ The comedic potential here is something he really should be mining further: he is on the verge of saying some very interesting things indeed about the pervasive segregation of the adjectives ‘gay’ and ‘masculine’, and what it’s like to buy into that segregation as a gay man.

The two rather self-pitying anecdotes at the start of the show (which perhaps expect sympathetic noises from the audience) fall noticeably flat, but otherwise the material is good enough to keep the laughs coming thick and fast. This makes it puzzling when, to mark a change of topic, Friel pauses to ask the audience, “Has anyone ever …?” At the performance I attended, too often no one was willing to contribute, creating awkward silences rather than drawing the audience in, and interrupting the well-ordered flow of his lively set.

The problems boil down to delivery though, because Friel’s writing is extremely promising. With a little more confidence in the strength of his performance and a little less regard for what his audience might be thinking, he could be onto a winner.

Reviews by Larry Bartleet

Underbelly, Cowgate

Jessie Cave: I Loved Her





Pleasance Dome

Neil Henry's Magical Mindsquirm

Laughing Horse @ Finnegan's Wake

Martha McBrier: Pigeon Puncher


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

At 6'3", Friel is probably the world’s tallest man with small man syndrome. Why? Is it because the average arthritic pensioner could outbench him? Is it the result of sibling rivalry? Is it his determination to be seen as the masculine one in his gay relationships? Come enjoy the tales that turned an attention starved, middle child into one of the most obsessively competitive people you'll have the misfortune to meet. As you won’t beat him, why not join him? ‘Delivered with a delicious flair’ (BroadwayBaby). ‘Very easy to imagine this young man enjoying a very bright future’ (ScotsGay).

Most Popular See More

Come From Away

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £45.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets