Tom Basden is 39. He has a very compelling face. A face from the early 1970s, weathered and interesting. He could be a member of the Carry On crew, or a window cleaner with confessions to tell. He still gets asked his age at the supermarket sometimes, though, as he points out, Prosecco is itself a form of identification.
There are songs, but not as many as you might expect. He sings beautifully, seriously, about extremely silly and inconsequential things, and then stops, abruptly. The show starts with a song to remind us that meeting people, after a certain age, is awful. What do you do? Where in London do you live? Please, let’s end this exchange now, for both our sakes. Small talk is death.
He also has songs about a social media star stuck in a canoe, a knowingly dated ditty about Nick Cage being in too many damn movies, and other nonsense things. But the songs do not dominate as much as expected. Instead, the twin themes of fatherhood and utterly failing to live in the present push the show along. Maybe we’re all squids shitting out anxiety ink. Maybe the eighties were better, when we had “the bin”, not several bins. Light bulbs, out of date sausages, frisbees. Dead pets.They all went in the bin.
We learn of neckless sperm. Wanking in hospitals being akin to shitting in cars. Giving money to homeless people being an unexpectedly fraught process. At this part in the show this reviewer briefly mislaid his empathy glands. Sure Tom, you’re using “Remainer” as a mildly amusing euphemism for “hapless middle class man who is aware, but not quite aware enough, of his own privileges.” Is it enough? Is it ever enough?
But it is. Because in this kind of narrative show, truth is all we have, and truth, cunningly deployed, is beauty. If the conclusion you draw from competing to give a homelessness person food is you value originality over kindness, then my cheeks hurt from laughing and you’ve prioritied being funny over worrying about the audience leaving the room suspecting you’re not a very nice person.
There’s so much more to mention. Why do Londoners hate Madame Tussauds so much? Does Mark Zuckerberg’s lust for protein give the game away? Are left handed people the truly oppressed? Are these spoilers, or just hints?
For Basden, every mundane moment is potentially hilarious, given those crucial handmaidens of time and context. It must be hard, though, when everything from awkwardly falling over Soho and your wife giving birth to a soundtrack of Justin Bieber are Potential Material. It’s very hard to live in the moment when everything is Potential Material.
This, though, is Basden’s problem, and our pleasure.
RATING: ***** 5 Stars