Chris Fitchew in Jack of All Trades

Jack of All Trades is full of energy and will sometimes entertain its audience, but it doesn’t really have enough wit to qualify as comedy.

Chris Fitchew is a loveable, enthusiastic man; everything about his show is warm and friendly. This is endearing, but also means that at times his performance feels like you’re at a five-year-old’s birthday party watching a breathless children’s entertainer, except with far more swearing. He has a dynamic stage presence - the effort is all there - but his audience is left feeling that he is better suited to television than theatre: he lacks timing and versatility. Fitchew is a big personality but he can’t quite carry Jack of All Trades’ sketches single-handedly.

This is particularly clear in the gaps between scenes: he fills in slow costume changes with short films. These films are quite funny, but there’s little about them that justifies their existence on screen rather than as a live performance, apart from the fact that they cover up for Fitchew’s absence. The effect doesn’t detract from the show as a whole, but it feels like a bit of a cop-out.

It’s the sketches themselves, though, which really bring Fitchew down. Firstly, if you don’t watch much TV, you’ll miss a lot of the irony. The main thing, however, is that, even if you don’t, you’ll still have a pretty solid idea of where his punchlines are going to pop out. He works mostly to laugh at stereotypes which have been ridiculed so many times that mocking them has itself become jaded and cliché. His points are valid enough: The Only Way is Essex cast are a bit stupid, the Dragon’s Den judges are vain and, yeah, it can be argued that Tom Cruise’s commitment to scientology is a bit odd – but he says nothing original. Moreover, while there are some fine touches, such as the use of his projection screen to have a Skype conversation, most flashes of new light are undermined by the length Fitchew drags out each gag for.

The real clinching factor for many, however, will be his approach to audience participation. He gets people up on stage simply for the sake of it: they stand there, he tells people to take photos and they sit back down. This brings an uncomfortable element to the show and makes what would be a mundane but pleasant enough performance something that’s rather tiring. Ultimately, Fitchew does not quite succeed in translating his charisma into engaging stage comedy.

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The Blurb

Bringing together a fast and furious comedy spectacle with an array of fun-loving characters, side-splitting sketches and a dance that has to be seen to be believed. 'A gifted comedian' (Bruce Dessau).

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