REVIEW: Tom Wrigglesworth: Utterly at Odds with the Universe (NZ International Comedy Festival 2014)

Tom Wigglesworth

Wriggle Room [by Matt Baker]

Tom Wigglesworth
Tom Wigglesworth

As soon as you enter the Herald Theatre, you notice something different about Tom Wrigglesworth’s show, as a set, however small, is not common in a comedy festival. A rug, an armchair, a side table, a discreet green bag, and a cassette recorder is all that is needed to immediately provide a sense of comfortable familiarity. Add to this an audio track introduction of seven-year-old Tom interviewing his grandfather, and the tone of the show is set before Wrigglesworth even enters on stage.

Wrigglesworth has a great grasp of storytelling, and arouses beautiful imagery with poetic descriptions in a similar vein to Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood. His ability to not only place certain pictures in the audiences’ mind, but also to call back on them to evoke catharsis, is an unparalleled skill in not only comedy, but also in writing itself. During the last third of his set, it’s impossible not to see that Wrigglesworth’s anecdotal scenarios and hilarious observations are constantly linking back to an inevitable conclusion, but it doesn’t prevent his coup de grâce from hitting home, and, in those final moments, the humour and humanity become more than the sum of their parts.

Wrigglesworth is far too hard on himself when it comes to a technical mishap with his microphone on opening night. Having ingratiated himself so well unto the audience, it seemed no one was particularly bothered at the slight stumble it caused in the show’s drive. Although it’s nice to know that as a professional performer he takes the consideration that an audience has paid good money to see a show in all seriousness – and it is good money, well spent.

While it’s common for the new generation of comedians to present their material in a structure that’s based around a particular theme, Wrigglesworth has found one that resonates for his entire audience – there were more than a few resounding “ah’s” of recognition throughout the night. Anyone who understands the unique relationship between grandparent and grandchild should see this show.

Tom Wrigglesworth: Utterly at Odds with the Universe plays until May 10.  Details see Comedy Festival.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Johnny Givins 

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