-Reviewed by James Webster–
Those of us at the Utter 10th Anniversary Mini-Fringe back in April were treated to a real smorgasboard of spoken word talent. From Kirsten Luckins’ intensely lyrical talents (The Moon Cannot be Stolen) to Keith Jarrett‘s superb insights and meaty verse (Identity Mix-Up), but none was more enjoyable for me than RTJ‘s show that offered a laugh-filled geek-fest of enjoyment.
This hour of medical and personal insight about the poet’s heart failure and ongoing health complications was kept light-hearted by frequent Dr Who jokes (“I don’t like to call it defibrilation so I call it regeneration”) and some engaging audience interaction (“What’s your Time Lord name? Mine’s The Patient”). Throughout the gags are a blend of inventive wit, gross-out humour and brilliantly terrible puns.
Highlights include his really quite gripping piece on having an ICD that administers electric shocks when his heart skips too many beats, describing it as ‘enforced smackhead Buddhism’ and like having ‘an electric fence inside of you’, the stop-start rhythms of the piece enhancing an uncomfortable and discordant effect. His piece on viagra (after conducting an audience poll about sex vs death with very interesting results) was also grubbily enjoyable and pleasantly absurd (the idea of a penis as an “H.R. Geiger counter” is especially joyous). And his take on the ‘Elements Song’ where every element is replaced by a different genetic condition is incredibly good value.
The balance of his own narrative of overcoming heart failure with the meta-narrative of his status as a ‘Crap Time Lord’ was well managed, drawing the comparison out, without ever overly labouring the point or becoming exclusive to those without the requisite sci-fi knowledge. There were plenty of geeky and non-geeky jokes and the central story of a dude at odds with his own body is a compelling core that keeps a firm grasp of the audience’s attention. But perhaps the best thing about the show is that he’s clearly having a huge amount of fun with it, every joke is relished and every poem imbued with an aura of mischievous joy that’s utterly infectious.
It’s still not a perfect show, the idea of your own becoming a kind of adversary felt like it wasn’t completely explored, and the Time Lord conceit at times felt a little tacked on, while also meaning the less geeky members of the audience wouldn’t get all the jokes. But these are very minor complaints in the face of a genuinely impressive outing.
Overall, this is a compelling narrative that’s full of intriguing medical nuggets, heart-ticklingly funny jokes and fun set pieces. Any Whovians out there will probably get a touch more out of it, but even without any knowledge of Dr Who it’s an impressively arresting and ever-entertaining hour.
Sabotage Star Rating: 4/5