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Kevin Dewsbury In Sane
Published on Wednesday, 25 May 2011

3.5 stars

Laughing Horse @ The Hobgoblin (venue website)
20-22 May, 6:30pm-7:30pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Suitable for age 18+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.

A couple of years ago, Kevin Dewsbury's comedy career was on the up and up. He lived with his wife in London, was gigging most nights of the week and was about to do his first Edinburgh show... but then Kevin had a breakdown. Now he's back, and his new show is the story of what happened to him.

On paper this sounds fascinating. I'm a big fan of the darker side of stand-up, where truth is more important than getting massive laughs. But as this show began, it seemed that Dewsbury was still that stand-up he was in 2008: a capable compère, gigging round the country and bantering with the audience. That's perfectly fine, and northern lad Dewsbury is very good at it, but it wasn’t the show I expected or wanted to see.

Dewsbury spends a lot of time riffing about the expectations an audience might  have of someone who's had mental health problems, but this very quickly starts to feel like a way to get easy laughs by throwing around cheap insults about people's illnesses, under the cover of assuming that the audience will be thinking that way. It felt like Dewsbury was used to a different kind of audience and a very different type of material. As the show went on, the tension between the type of show Dewsbury seemed comfortable performing and the type of show this needed to be only got greater.

Sometimes true stories aren’t really funny. Or not laugh-out-loud funny. Or not as quick-fire funny as a ten minute spot in a comedy chain-store needs to be. Dewsbury needs to accept that he can’t tell the story of his breakdown like it's a bit of observation about kitchen appliances.

Because his is a funny story, and a story that's worth telling. It's also a cleverly-structured tale, and a brave one. Towards the end, Dewsbury reveals a fact about his breakdown that turns everything on its head, including the way we see Dewsbury himself. It's a strange twist of expectation that I didn't see coming, despite the way it had been foreshadowed.

It was at that point that, after feeling fidgety for the first half hour, I began to see this show's true potential. It is a show, not a set, and Dewsbury's story is strong enough and true enough to speak for itself. If he can just make that shift, he could have something amazing, redemptive and powerful on his hands.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2011.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.