George Rowe delivers a decent hour of Free Fringe stand-up that never reaches truly great heights and contains more than a few missteps, but nevertheless contains a spark of something new and intriguing.
Letting his intelligent, thoughtful side grow could be the beginning of a subversive and artistically interesting act.
From his stories and onstage persona it is clear that Rowe has tempered his craft in some rough rooms: he dominates the stage with a commanding showmanship and presence well suited to taming unruly crowds. His material is observational and anecdotal: never revolutionising the art form, but tried and tested, accessible stuff geared at having a bit of fun.
His stories are well structured and his imagery surprising and colourful. The truly interesting moments come when Rowe shares sensitive and thoughtful viewpoints, subverting the Essex lad persona that the football and ‘I’m no good with women’ material presents just at the point where you think you have him sussed.
A moment of reflection on his quick judgement of characters in his stories is genuinely touching, as is his taking the time to explain mid-anecdote that he did not want to take advantage of a vulnerable person for his own gain. Letting that intelligent, thoughtful side grow could be the beginning of a subversive and artistically interesting act.
Some gags do cheapen the rest of the hour by punching down: Rowe is occasionally heard to make a prison rape or paedophile joke, or an ableist or transphobic blunder. He is good enough to let these cheap, warmed-over lines fall from his act: they are not needed and drag him down. It is interesting that his show is themed around not living up to idols of masculinity; were he to be similarly iconoclastic with these stale idols of comedy and let his own voice shine through his act could soar.
Magnum Hopeless may not be the strongest hour of stand-up at the Fringe but it could be the beginning of George Rowe’s artistic journey. Its potential earns it a recommendation.