The blurb for Audacity claims that John Hastings is back at the Fringe to “prove that love starts in the toilet (not that kind, you yucky idiots)”. From that description alone, it’s not entirely clear what kind of perverse love we’re being chastised for and what he’s actually referring to, but within a few minutes of the show’s start it all becomes too obvious.
Identifying as someone who has the misfortune to look like “a racist pervert” and whose messed-up bowels means he leaves a trail of annihilated U-bends in his wake, Hastings is clearly no stranger to self-deprecation. This, coupled with his silky smooth voice (which sounds exactly how the creators of South Park must when they impersonate a Canadian Alec Baldwin) make him immediately endearing as a performer and a person.
His material isn’t half bad either. Mostly concentrating on his “posh” upbringing, the quirks of his bodily functions and his recent realisation that he’s managed to fall in love, Hastings walks the line of ego and effacement with expertise. Aside from an initial lengthy diatribe against an audience member who didn’t appreciate his antics on the previous night, he largely sticks to his script, which is clearly a polished, thoughtful piece of work designed to entertain on many levels (not just the yucky idiot one, though definitely that too).
It’s a bit of a shame that he doesn’t freestyle more often, since on the few occasions that he does veer off-piste he proves himself to be an inventive off-the-cuff thinker. To be fair, the chips are stacked against him. He’s playing in a venue that immediately seems too small for his larger-than-life persona (he literally had to turn off two of the stage lights because they bounced glaringly off his massive bonce) and what’s worse, it’s only half full. There’s not a whole lot for the man to work with here, which is a crying shame because he clearly merits so much more.
With an Amused Moose nomination already in the bag, it’s difficult to see what more Hastings can do to convince people (including his own mother) that he’s not a racist pervert, or at least not both at the same time. One thing is for sure – he’s deserving of more bums on seats in a bigger venue than Pleasance’s Bunker Two. Help a brother out by going to see him – just don’t mention Justin Trudeau.