Ed Mayhew has a friendly one-man variety show that you could do worse than spend an hour watching. He invites his audience to explore the preconceptions we have about fame, in all its fickleness. Why do we value fame above other important contributions to society? Why are those who’ve left the spotlight looked down upon? What is the connection between fame and happiness? Mayhew enlists his audience to explore the benefits of anonymity. The irony that he does so from a stage is not lost on the audience.
The show is a smorgasbord of performance styles; Mayhew as the undercover poet seizes the opportunity of a captive audience to force his poetry on them. It’s not awful. Mayhew displays his elasticity as a performer by assuming multiple characters and cramming together amusing songs, visual gags, a smattering of puns and about four minutes of high action comedy drama. His singing voice and pithy musical numbers are a highlight of the performance. Audience participation is required, but Mayhew’s genial presence ensures it’s not a traumatic experience.
There are glimpses of greatness in this show: a few delightfully surprising punchlines, some genuinely insightful reflections and some finely crafted callbacks. The concept of the show is a solid one, however the performance could do with a little more continuity. Fleshing out the connection between the show’s fantastic title, its description and the content couldn’t do any harm. There were moments of confusion as to what certain bits had to do with their predecessors. If Mayhew was aiming for absurdity then he needs to turn up the dial a few notches to make it clearer. That uncertainty aside, the pleasant and gentle self-deprecating Mayhew gives the Free Fringe a good name and will deliver mirth and reflection to your afternoon.