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Rob Oldham: Worm’s Lament review

| Comedy, Festivals | 09/08/2018


Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer & Reviewer

Rob Oldham makes a solid start in his first hour-long show, showing a sharp eye for observational comedy.

For a first hour-long Edinburgh show, this is an assured effort from Rob Oldham.  Although never quite hitting the heights you suspect he may be capable of in time, he delivers a well-structured show – frequently commentated on during fourth wall-breaking moments – that’s heavy on parody and neat one-liners.

Prior to the Fringe, Oldham told us that Worm’s Lament would be about him “growing up and finding your place in the world”.  He makes a decent fist of this objective, although much of the passing of time is told through his prose poetry segments, which attracted fewest laughs and could conceivably be reduced.  In contrast, when he addresses the journey to adulthood (via school and university) in stand-up form, Oldham paints amusing portraits of friends, family and experiences – although he seems a little less candid when turning the gaze on himself.

For example, in a strong introduction, Oldham tells a very funny anecdote from Freshers’ Week portraying himself as a calamitous Frank Spencer-type.  However, from the absence of any subsequent slapstick stories and his assured stage presence, you’re left suspecting that’s not really the case.  Elsewhere, Oldham spends more time talking about what he’s not, than what he is – downplaying his bookishness by throwing slang about, pointing out past drug taking and alluding to sex toys in his private life.  It could suggest he’s slightly uncomfortable with introspection or, perhaps more likely, that it may not contain his deepest well of good material.

Oldham’s on far more solid ground when it comes to observational comedy, applying his sharp comedic eye to both satirical and frivolous subjects.  The strongest parts of the show are extended routines where he sends up The Guardian‘s patronising regional reporting (“as an old lady weeps thick, grateful tears of gravy”), debunks a pro-guns argument with a butt plug analogy and delves into whimsy during a Christmas coffee routine.  He’s superb in these moments, gaining so much confidence from his own momentum that his comedy career must surely lie down this route – also hinted at during an excellent “elitist, intolerant and cruel” Tories routine in last year’s Brink.

He works in a number of strong one-liners elsewhere – even if his neatly self-deprecating ‘dick-string’ line was ruined by an inebriated audience member – and repeatedly lays out a road-map of where he’s headed – possibly, at this stage, as much for his own benefit as the audience’s.  By this time next year, Oldham will be clearer in his own mind where he’s going with his comedy.  And then his next show could really raise the roof.

Rob Oldham is performing ‘Worm’s Lament’ every night at 21.30 in the Pleasance Courtyard (tickets here).  Follow him on Twitter @roboldham94.  Review date: 6th August 2018.

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