Will Howells is a stand-up on a mission. The English language is under attack and he intents to fight back. And it must be a battle that many are willing to join as the Etcetera theatre was packed.
Howells is the first one to admit he is a pedant and stickler for grammar rules. Whilst all for a living language, evolving by adding new words, he points out that rules are rules for a reason and, without them, there is only chaos.
As he takes us through what this chaos looks like, Howells’ stand-up background is on full display. The hour-long show has plenty of witty anecdotes related to grammar and, despite a slightly messy start, becomes more structured as it goes on, making a more of a point instead of pelting us with bits of rant. Here grammar becomes a golden thread to lead us through the treacherous maze of the English language.
As a non-native speaker, writing a review on a show about grammar is slightly daunting, though I could (and shall) always blame the editor. I often wonder why so many native speakers make obvious mistakes, but with the grammar rules (and myriad exceptions) the British are taught, it’s clear that their confusion may be justified. Most foreigners use no such rules - as Howells instructs, we just learn the words!
The show revolves around Howells astute observation of the common mistakes people make and his careful picking-apart of these mistakes is where most of the show’s humour lies. That said, I did feel the audience could be given a little more credit – taking us step-by-step through the ‘pun-liners’ section slightly spoiled the fun (a joke’s not a joke if you have to explain it).
Acknowledging that his interest in grammar might make him a bit of a snob, Will is also keen to self-deprecate throughout the show. Here he could have gone easier on himself, if anything it makes the Headmaster persona confused. If you want to fight the decay of English, don’t apologise for doing it. We’re here to learn, Will - have the confidence to teach.