Venue: The Duchess, York
Last night, in front of a packed-out Duchess, James Acaster delivered a confident, inventive and artful performance of his on-tour Edinburgh show.
The 30-year old comic has been rising in notoriety in recent years, helped by stints on several mainstream British TV shows including Have I Got News for You and Mock the Week, and with his 2015 show, Represent, Acaster offered up an assured display of stand-up.
One-line gags fit snugly into his earnestly-presented but amusingly improbable anecdotes; every joke made is filtered through an entertaining and comically sustainable persona, one of slightly exaggerated self-delusion. Acaster is judicious in his use of call-backs and the routine builds to something resembling a dramatic climax. There is a sense of cohesion to Represent that was absent from last year’s Edinburgh show, a sure sign of good things to come.
A few tweaks were made for local enjoyment, the routine at one point de-railing to engage with an audience member with the job of being a “hype man for a log flume”. The audience banter was funny and didn’t outstay its welcome. There is the sense from Acaster’s performance that the material is unusually polished. Transitions between jokes are slick; the audience is never let ahead of the punchlines, but a line never landed poorly.
The size of the crowd speaks to the growing recognition in store for the comedian. Acaster won Best Show and Breakthrough Act awards at the Chortle Awards earlier this year for his previous show, Recognise. Increased television exposure has helped cultivate the crowds. But crucially, based on his performance in York, he has great comic substance to back it up.