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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow Jon Bennett: My Dad's Deaths
Jon Bennett: My Dad's Deaths
Published on Wednesday, 21 August 2013

5 stars

Underbelly, Cowgate (venue website)
1-12, 14-25 Aug, 7:40pm-8:40pm
Reviewed by Liam McKenna

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

For someone so diminutive, Jon Bennett is a storyteller of epic proportions. Best known for starting the trend of ‘pretending things are cocks’, Bennett has now gone from stand-up to fully-fledged comic raconteur in a short space of time. This year’s show covers, as the title might suggest, a full run-down of all the times Bennett’s dad has died.

Well, almost died. There are several instances, many of which involve ladders, some of which are genuinely shocking, and all of which are told with a warmth and a wry smile buried in sadness. For there is a great deal of sadness in this show.

With the help of a PowerPoint presentation, Bennett starts from the top, taking us through an eclectic childhood on a dusty Australian farm. His young life was dominated – in no uncertain terms – by his jack-of-all-trades father, and a young Jon contemplating his ‘serious’ dad’s disappointment in him.  He has an instant appeal through his confident, fast-paced delivery, putting the audience at ease (important for what’s a pretty intimate gig.)

You feel you could sit there well beyond the allotted hour, listening to Bennett’s anecdotes.  I’d go as far to say the material is near-perfect: hilarious and sad in equal measure. Amongst all the comedy there are breaks for more serious turns, where Bennett explains the difficulties growing up with a father who experiences physical pain frequently, but refuses out of principle to express a single swear word. It is captivating to watch, and all these little details (like his dad screaming ‘HELP’ from under a tractor in a barn) bring the stories to life.

You soon realise that Bennett is much more than just a comedian. He has the knack of conjuring up graphic – and in some cases wince-inducing – descriptions that really shock an audience into full attention. The images he evokes (his pregnant mum on the roof, his dad’s bleeding knees, a possum clinging to a plane – you need to see it) implant themselves in your mind and are certain to stay with you for some time.

Intertwined with all these stories of near-death experiences are tales from school: of Bennett trying to fit in, dealing with bullies (especially hard when that bully is related to you), and a series of tender poems about love and life. It all slots in perfectly and gives us a deeper insight into the background of this serious man who “doesn’t like jokes” – by which Bennett means any jokes at all.

The story ends on a hilarious and heart-wrenching twist. Bennet is a joy to watch. This is bold, honest, engaging and different to a lot of standard comedy on offer. More people should see this five-star show.

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