Alpha Fail

Thu 31st July – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Fay Watson

at 08:06 on 10th Aug 2014

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A self confessed "clever chap" and failed alpha male, Cormac spends his 50 minute show detailing embarrassing memories, failed relationships and competitive siblings. Oh, and a well-justified affection for Cher, "Mean Girls" and wine spritzers. Yet, it becomes clear towards the end that he is in fact more 'alpha male' than most - actually about a third more.

Cormac works his audience. His dose of complimentary comments towards the Scots is combined with self-deprecating ones about himself and Ireland - notably, their number of Olympic gold medals wretches up a certain bitterness. His most genuine and funny moments of the night are his fluid interactions with the crowd. This is a man who may be terrified of swallowing his own tongue but when faced with a crowd of drinking patrons, he is fearless. He takes what little the audience gives him and molds it into a laugh. Maybe, this lingers because it contrasts with his reliance on rehearsed material that halts the stream of anecdotes and slices them into one-liners.

Comedy in the back of a pub feels like a perfect venue and the packed out audience attested to this. In the back room of the blood speckled Jekyll and Hyde, inhibitions were slightly loosened which allowed an audience that was willing and ready to find the show funny.

They were rewarded with some truly hilarious moments, such as a tale of his unwitting prostitution in Vegas. Indeed, as he says in his show "I don't think this story shows me in a good light" and, generally, it doesn't. But there is something quite endearing about this nonetheless. However, this is by no means a laugh-a-minute show. Some jokes fell flat and some elicited simply a chuckle. He also steeped into the stand-up cliches with tired jokes about 'reality' television shows and the IQ of Joey Essex. Therefore, while Cormac was likeable and the show was as a whole generally amusing, I was left feeling slightly indifferent.

Overall, it was a good way to spend a hour as part of the Free Fringe. and in the wave terrible stand-ups who seem to have descended on the 2014 Fringe, Cormac was a treat. Or, if that wasn't tempting enough, you could see him next year in a show that he promises to call "Sleeping With Obama" in attempts to increase his shock value year on year.

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Patrick Galbraith

at 10:08 on 10th Aug 2014

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It is generally accepted that, at the Fringe, particularly with comedy shows, you get what you pay for. Tonight, however, this notion was shown to be untrue. Cormac Friel’s show was amusing, dynamic and impressively well attended.

Exploring his quest for “alphamaledom” in the face of sibling rivalry and being gay, Friel recalls some of the most important experiences of his 24 years, from the infinite erections of his youth, spent lusting after schoolmates, to the 120 Dollars he once received for sleeping with a middle aged, greying American on a trip to Las Vegas. Friel claims to have been charmingly unaware that the airline pilot in question thought he “was a rent-boy”, leading to initial self-disgust, then a feeling of compensation, and then utter devastation as he counted the money to discover that the man considered 12 hours in his company to be worth a mere hundred and twenty dollars. Such anecdotes, whilst not being fall-off-your-seat hilarious, are told with flair and wit, and were met with an appreciative response from the audience.

Alpha Fail exudes originality. The material relies heavily upon often bleak, self-deprecating anecdotes, like the time his boyfriend dumped him in the most public place he could find, after he had been warned by his mother and friends that Friel was a “semi-alcoholic, sex addicted, Nurse Ratched and was likely to turn violent”. He assures us that he didn’t.

There is, at times, a notable tenderness, which Friel exhibits in recollecting stories from his childhood; a love for the little boy he was, growing up, friendless and isolated in parochial Ireland, a land of confession and “hail Marys”. Such a tone balances the performance out and gives the show depth and a feeling of variety. Not every joke should riff on prosthetic limb fetishes and the Paralympic Commonwealth games.

I would certainly go and see Friel again and I expect to hear more of him in the future.

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