James Veitch appears, at first, a bit like a protagonist in a young adult novel (probably one by John Green), in the way he combines a bildungsroman with popular culture, or sees metaphors for life in a vintage video game. He has the boyish charm, the glasses, the technical know-how, and the dream girl with a side of manic pixie who believes in dragons. Until he doesn’t have her anymore, and the show gets into gear.
The show is a technical wonder, with a slideshow that’s rather too good for the name.
Drawing on his time fixing iPhones as a Genius at Apple, Veitch explores his heartbreak with a desperate, nerdy passion. He plays up the obsessive geekery, but always with a sense of fun; a bit about the mouse that lives in his kitchen shows both a focus on the minutiae of life, but also a great deal of silliness and, ultimately, heart. The sense of a man-child nerd out of touch with ‘emotions’ unravels quickly. The performance has an emotional arc that works exceptionally well, even as Veitch explores tangents such as amusing emails and his neighbour’s strange habits.
The show is a technical wonder, with a slideshow that’s rather too good for the name. It articulates his jokes, adds in a few visual gags and gives proceedings a sense of structure. It’s easy to rely on a PowerPoint to guide an audience through a show in the age of Ted talks, but Veitch plays well with his, and understands when he needs to move away from it for a segment. He does very well to get the audience’s attention just where he needs it on the small stage.
For Genius Bar, despite its aggrandising (and true) title, is a show about failure. Not a failure of tech, nor talent – Veitch keeps one of those in reserve for most of the show – but a failure nonetheless. And for all that a breakup is the village well of comedy, Veitch also allows his audience to see the vulnerable side to heartbreak. His show becomes, for a moment, not comedy to conceal, but deeply revealing and rather moving. It’s personal, yes, but universal enough to catch and hold the crowd in their own first lost love. Then, smart as a whip, it pulls back into a series of brilliant cracks and a brilliantly conceived and constructed ending sequence.