John Hastings starts the show early and greets his audience briefly before guiding them to his upstairs room. This is a nice touch which allows the audience to acclimatise to Hastings’ infectious energy and sets the tone instantly: accessible observations coupled with an enquiring mind and a readiness to improvise and have fun with all. He asks questions… and they are not rhetorical. They are intended to be answered and explored which suits an audience that likes to get involved.
Such a freeflowing approach can easily be hijacked by over-eager participants but Hastings launches into a quick meet and greet which zeroes in on a trio of young Swedish men in the front row. These jocular but inscrutable fellows provide a suitable platform for the bulk of the riffs: the perennial stoicism of the Swedes; the merits or otherwise of snus; and their calm and controlled demeanour, which makes them somehow exotic.
He confidently segues into an interesting theory about the Quebec Referendum, demonstrating that deceit can be necessary in matters of diplomacy. This political tangent illustrates that Hastings can allow more serious topics to intrude on the japes and is comfortable in the knowledge that he can revert to silliness and bawdy observation if necessary.
The podcast element involves picking suggestions from a jar and throws up some evidently pre-written themes; the rebellion of silently farting at the high school girls who ignore the outsiders, and the propensity for intimidating people to be left in charge of children’s fun. You get the impression that he could forgo the jar and just recount his day and satisfaction would remain intact.
Hastings is a genuinely enjoyable performer capable of dealing with barbs and off-hard remarks without alienating or stigmatising and his other show will no doubt benefit from his many skills.