It seems almost miraculous that something different and original can be achieved within the confines of stand-up comedy. It’s just possible that Mark Forward will make you a true believer after a sensational hour of paradoxically beautifully-constructed randomness.
Randomness is usually associated with whimsy. Most of the free-associative acts you could think of have a fairly genial stage presence. Not so, Forward. The man is a swiftly-filled cauldron of volcanic rage. The lid gets blown sky-high every few minutes, before he goes back to simmering. The audience bears the brunt of his resentment, chastised for not being appreciative enough. Perhaps not everyone is completely smitten, but for those on board, it’s hard to see how much more the crowd could do, short of a standing ovation after every joke. Obviously, Forward knows how divisive his act is likely to be, meaning there will always be at least one bemused enclave in the room at whom he can direct his vitriol.
This isn’t a standard hour of stand-up by any means. Forward utilises props, hurls bread and butter around (yes Mark, some of us were wondering who was going to clean that up), forms a heartbreaking friendship with a bee, verbally assaults his sound engineer, and spoils Bonnie Tyler for everyone. His subjects look slight on paper, but his delivery is just mesmerising. It’s exhausting to watch, as there is not the slightest indication where he is going to go next; and not just with his material. Several times he sprints offstage and into the crowd spitting venom.
Of course, it’s impossible to retain this ridiculous level of intensity, and the mask occasionally slips. On numerous occasions Forward can’t help grinning at the absurdity of it all, particularly during the “awards-moments” where he settles on a stool and a blue spotlight settles on his face. His tone softens and he begins to tell a heart-felt tale, until laughter cracks his voice and he’s off pinballing around the stage again on another flight of fancy.
By the end, when it’s all come literally crashing down, you feel like you’ve seen something indelible. This is a man with total commitment to his singular style of comedy. The title of the show drips with contemptuous irony; but after a performance of this energy, originality, and sheer gonzo madness, maybe it’s not such a crazy suggestion.