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

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Performances

Location

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). www.freefestival.co.uk