Rhys James does not make it easy for his audience to get a handle on him. His cynical insouciance is shot through with the self-awareness of a twenty-something; his bared-teeth anger is broken up with short giggles and smiles that show exactly how much fun he’s having on stage; his refusal to resort to ‘message comedy’ comes a cropper when he delivers a strikingly political poem. And for all that it’s a very cleverly crafted act, James does a fantastic job at presenting a multi-faceted persona.
Remains is a show that rewards attention.
Remains is a show that operates on as many levels as you have the energy for. There are the jokes, solid, smart and with a surprisingly broad appeal. Many seem angled at my kind of people, who thrive off ironic opinion writing from Vice, check our privilege and think that Twitter is Serious Business, but they gain big laughs across an audience with no clear demographic. An early joke on self-employment is brilliant, and shows off the interplay between James’ irritation and his having fun well.
Then there’s the word play. James clearly adores language, from the audible delight with which he yells ‘lameo’, sliding down the vowels, to the set piece on a word calendar, and, of course, the poems. His coinages are excellent and he pulls out language games that are sometimes smarter than his audience. The control of rhythm he shows in delivering poetry comes through in his patter with the audience and the timing of his punchlines, but the show isn’t structured too tightly to squeeze the life out of it. Asides, such as how on the 26th show of the run he’s decided to throw a new word in, keep fresh parts which threaten to dry out.
Despite appearing rather slight on stage, James does a good job of prowling about the space and his presence is fairly bewitching. Even late in the run, when he was obviously exhausted, he thrummed with energy.
The videos which bookend the show aren’t perfectly integrated – the first in particular is a bit meandering, and bears little relation to the show until the second closes proceedings. There’s room to pull in the poems better as well, as it’s the one point where his self-awareness of the jar isn’t quite enough to paper over the crack, even if it allows us to again see the workings of this remarkable performance. Remains is a show that rewards attention.