There are many indicators of class membership in British society, but if you have lost count of how many times you’ve been in the same room as the Queen, then it’s a safe bet that you’re somewhere near the top.
Houghton delivers an hour that is genuinely refreshing
As the son of the former head of the UK’s armed forces, Tom Houghton belies the received wisdom that relatability is nine tenths of the law in standup. He has lead a life unimaginable to most of his audience but Houghton’s privileged background provides plenty of material in a solid solo Fringe debut.
Houghton shows no signs of nerves on the opening day of the Festival. He is clearly comfortable on stage and his relaxed manner allows him to give a sense, among other things, of what it’s like to grow up with bodyguards during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, without alienating his audience. In another comic’s hands, there could be a very real and present danger of humblebragging, but the Carry-On sensibility of his anecdotes about being a camp, theatrically-minded youngster in a military environment ensures that Houghton keeps everyone onside in the early exchanges.
Though the show is more conversational in style than anything else, there is no real narrative or throughline. Instead, what ties the various anecdotes together is the idea that, no matter what your background, the important thing is to recognise it for what it is and try to own it. Houghton doesn’t overegg this potentially clichéd idea though – he has enough self-awareness to recognise that there are problems obviously greater than some of those experienced by the well-to-do. Or as he so succinctly puts it, he doesn’t have a “struggle” like so many groups have had throughout history, he just has issues.
Routines about empathising with the monarchy, the wisdom of ducks, and living in the Tower of London sit nicely alongside each other and could work just as easily as stand-alone pieces. The show would benefit with a little bit more in terms of structure though, something more than the odd callback or pun to knit the whole thing together.
In avoiding the well-worn stereotypes that are normally associated with ideas of class, Houghton delivers an hour that is genuinely refreshing – a deceptively adept comic and definitely one to look out for.