For those not in the know, James Acaster is a nice man from Kettering who will happily tell you that all of his clothes are from Marks and Spencer. He is also a dark horse with a disarming capacity to transform the familiar and the mundane into fantastic sculptures of hilarity. Lawnmower pulls out the punchlines when you are least expecting them; who knew that Percy Pigs could have such concealed depths? He has a dry, unassuming wit, so if you’re traditionally British, you will feel proud to watch this. Well, that’s not strictly relevant - you’ll feel proud to watch this regardless because this show is a smart purchase. Go even if all you desire is to feel smugly content with your choice.
The key to this four star status is the perfect structure of Lawnmower. Acaster cites his main purpose as ‘clearing Yoko Ono’s name’ in the face of allegations that she single-handedly split up The Beatles. This is beautifully interwoven into his weave of childhood traumas, life aspirations and love of Mariachi. Were he a lawyer, he would gain a unanimous vote of favour from any jury simply as a reward for sheer originality of argument.
Audiences will also hugely appreciate the atmosphere Acaster creates. Lawnmower has a personal touch; it works quickly to establish a plethora of shared frames of reference. The majority of the laughs in the second half hour are based on the lines that you all bonded over in the first. It’s three dimensional – everything is layered together like a really good onion – there’s not a disjointed one-liner in earshot.
Acaster also gets top marks for his use of comedic mediums. There’s the odd prop, the odd sound effect; he produces a folder of Beatles’ quotes to aid Yoko’s defence and strikes a couple of dramatic poses. It’s unassuming but well-rounded, and he mercifully avoids audience participation past the odd personal address.
The lone foible is that it’s not quite side-splitting. Yet, that aside, the clever subtlety of Lawnmower is Acaster’s trump card. The humour is alluringly demure and your ticket will buy you a well of long-lasting quotations.