It is an almost exclusively female crowd at Markus Birdman‘s penultimate Fringe 2011 performance. Most of the room has been booked by a single hen party and they are in high spirits. As we file into the venue, their ringleader says something about “hiding the weed”, and the ticket collector sighs the sigh of a man getting ready to bounce his one-hundredth drunk of the month. But the Festival is almost over and we can all go home soon.
Fortunately, the tipsy audience and the arse-end-of-the-fringe-effect are not problems for Rockabilly dad Markus Birdman, who is an extraordinarily likable and energetic performer. Something that sets him apart from many other comics is that his act is not built on vitriol but on a kind of spiritual generosity. He’s willing to let things go. Even when he talks about existential disappointments or feigns frustration with his mid-life lot, he doesn’t seem particularly bitter. It is refreshing to spend time in the company of an act who is neither fizzingly excited about an issue or on a mission to set everything right. He discusses various sources of urban dissatisfaction, but it doesn’t seem to compromise the gleeful pleasure he takes in so many of the world’s good things.
Structurally, the show is a tad wonky. I’m not sure whether the kernel is supposed to be a personal life reassessment after his fortieth birthday and coincident life-threatening stroke or whether it was a lecture about following your dreams. Did one inform the other? I wasn’t sure. This doesn’t particularly matter: the show is less of a concept album than a gentle romp through the events that have characterised Birdman’s year.
Particularly pleasing is a routine about how he mistook his stroke for a hangover. He says there is something wrong about our British urban lifestyle when waking up partially-sighted is conceivably the result of a night on the piss. Tonight’s swigged-up audience are evidence of this problem, contributing non-sequiturs and making weird remarks, but Markus handles the squiffy women with a gentlemanly charm and ease.
Each chapter of the show is introduced by a pre-recorded jingle, each of which is low-fi and clownish and very funny. An impressive outing for the Birdman.