Fringe mainstay Sean Hughes is performing two shows at this year’s festival and has perhaps bravely decided to make his earlier show, Life Becomes Noises, an extended discourse on his father’s death from cancer a little under a year ago. While his ambition is commendable, the show itself is – perhaps understandably – a little unfocused at times and occasionally Hughes makes some odd choices for the targets of his comedy.
The show opens with a discussion of his father’s gambling and drinking habits, particularly as regards horse racing and his father’s wish that Hughes should be a jockey. The best parts of the show come when he takes a wry and witty look at his childhood experiences in 1970s Dublin, particularly on his relationships with his brothers and father, all based on mutual self-loathing. If the show had made the complications of this relationship its main focus the show could have been something rather powerful, but Hughes goes on non-sequiturs with Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” and decidedly weak jokes about the IRA. We’re more than far enough away from the Troubles to poke fun, but surely there’s something more substantial to be said?
In any case these interruptions do not serve the story well and extended sketches about buying bread and pretending to have a pet elephant for the benefit of his drugged and dying father are a little too long and quirky for quirkiness’ sake. A recurring joke about the travelling community is extremely weak and thoroughly ill-advised and seemed to confuse the audience more than anything.
Hughes is an experienced comedian and is a relaxed and warm presence on the notably spacious stage in Pleasance Forth, but Life Becomes Noises could have done with some judicious trimming and maybe even a little more conventional narrative. While moving in places, it is not quite the finished article, though fans of Hughes’ work will find more than enough new material for an enjoyable show.