Joz Norris: Blink
JOZ NORRIS has left childish pursuits behind. Once a lowly comedian, he now presents himself on the Soho Theatre stage as a dashing magician, ready to wow us with his confident mastery of illusion.
Until he loses his trousers, very early on.
I don’t know if this counts as a spoiler. Norris, one of the most engaging performers on the circuit right now, is rarely far from his comedy oversized Y-fronts. But here, the denundation is a metaphor.
And so, improbably, are the fart jokes.
This is an hour of confidence being torn away, all the tricks of the trade employed but useless, a big ol’ look into what makes us create and what it does to us, and still somehow manages to be extremely funny.
There is some wonderful prop work — all the magician staples are nodded to, lampooned, but never fully Tommy Coopered.
There is also some fine, pre-recorded voice work, which forms a central conceit of the show and a run parody of audience interaction.
And also, genuinely, this is another point being made — it’s a lot easier to achieve a funny but pliant front row if you literally put words into their mouth. Norris may be largely naked, but he is in control.
There are a couple of less successful sections. Ben Target, off stage and purportedly running the show, is underused, a brilliant performer in his own right. A bit built around a phone call with his bank isn’t really needed.
And the existential dread and fear of waste and failure — all heartfelt and true, I’m sure — are a strange ol’ juxtaposition with a crowd that is crying with laughter.
These, though, are minor quibbles.
Some of the strongest writing is within the smaller, more human moments.
A Canadian is urged to go to Greggs — this isn’t in the script — as we all digest a profound sausage metaphor.
Dreams, and what they do to us, are an important part of the show, perhaps its core. Here we have this would-be mesmerist toying with the hidden powers of the mind, terrified of what he might unleash. If we’re not laughing, might we be crying at the sheer futility of it all?
We need people like Joz Norris: never afraid to be silly, always brave enough to be properly ridiculous. If the illusionist career doesn’t work out, alternative comedy will always be happy to have him back.