Seating about 60, the small subterranean venue based at Cabaret Voltaire was packed for Alex Kealy’s afternoon set. Returning after good reviews following his 2017 festival show The Art of the Keal, his new show Kealy’s Heel revisits the mix of the politics and the personal that, by his own opening gambit, delivers “something for everyone and everything for no-one”.
The 20-something rattled off to a good start by addressing his own pedantic ticks on modern life and comparing and contrasting them with wider political issues and random history facts to great effect. This, combined with a genuine warmness and slight nervousness, meant he had the audience on his side right from start.
A shift towards more linear tales that covered the generation gap with his parents, his sex life, and current relationship garnered occasional laughs. But with the subject matter moving to more standard ground – and with certain material not getting the response he expected – it lead to a loss of confidence and, ultimately, throwing out opening comments like you would throw spaghetti at a wall in the hope something would stick.
He worked best when he loosened up a bit and reacted more naturally to what was going on in the room, with left of centre jokes about maths (he is a maths teacher), savvy cracks at the media and, after two people departed and left the curtain open, a polite lecture about the correct etiquette for walking out of a show.
This was undoubtedly a performance that went on the downward slide but the material was always there somewhere and when he was at his best – weaving his own life in with odd and insightful comments on wider issues – it was very refreshing.
There is decent talent here – and it’s free. Go and see him.
5.15pm, until 26 August
Words: Simon Shaw