Adam Rowe starts as he means to go on with a tried-and-tested comedy subject: himself. He bounds on stage and starts “explaining what’s wrong with me fucking face”. From the outset he deftly mixes self-deprecatory humour, swearing and reminisces. Throughout, the show is unashamedly personal and encompasses everything from nights out, having alcohol-dependant parents, to attending an all-boys school. “You have to really analyse it to see the beauty of it,” he says about his growing up in impoverished Dovecot, but it’s a mantra which really applies to the varied topics mined in his Undeniable show.
Underneath all of the jokes there are some soberingly sharp observations about societal hypocrisy, class, trying to better oneself, commitment and the nature of relationships. These are used sparingly enough to not be overbearing, with comedy flowing naturally on the back of the discussions. Some of his gags are funny on an almost profound level as a result. For example his hypothesis that if alcohol were to be created now how difficult a sell it would be is genuinely insightful. The use of cuttingly memorable lines helps emphasise this; going on a binge which will result in a hangover Rowe explains can marketed as “borrowing happiness from tomorrow”.
What doesn’t quite flow as deftly is a topic which is arguably the main narrative thread: why his current girlfriend isn’t “the one”. Rowe explains over several topics why this is the case, although there is much circumlocution around this that becomes awkward. It slightly outstays it’s welcome near the end and at times feels like it’s intruding and suppressing other material which is proving more interesting and amusing.
More successful is Rowe’s audience interaction: he is brilliant at this, softening his slightly abrasive performance when talking to others. Unfortunately this evening his gambit of asking audience members where they hail from was also covered by his support act, but it was fascinating to see how Rowe handled discussions with the same people. He seems genuinely tickled by an anecdote concerning chickens and vegans and gleefully admits he’s stealing it for his next tour. His ability to interact and shape his material is aptly demonstrated when it transpires there is a police officer in attendance; his discussion of drugs is then seemingly altered in a way which borders on pure pantomime. Indeed he is extremely good at exaggerated, Pinter-esque silences when acting out feuds with his loved ones.
It’s frustrating that Rowe is slightly hamstrung by his returning to “why my girlfriend isn’t the one” as it’s a conceit which feels unnecessary and clunky. Some comedy gems are abruptly dove-tailed back to this central topic in a way which feels structurally artificial and stifling. Furthermore, it draws attention to just how big a chunk of the show this area starts to occupy. It may have proved more satisfying if his discussions of drug-taking and alcohol (mis)use weren’t shoe-horned back to this topic. Sometimes less is more.