It smacks of the Free Fringe when the performing comedian does the five minute call for their own show, and then introduces themselves onto the stage. Yet it matters that Alexander Bennett is the one calling all the shots, because this is a deeply personal show. As he occasionally stumbles and stutters through the hour, he delivers a comedy set that may lack in some departments, but depth is not one of them.
The host of Hell to Play is not afraid of a dicey joke or two. This is partly to provoke some kind of rise from the audience, who are not laughing as consistently as Bennett might like. He reacts quickly to these misfires however, and keeps the show whizzing from subject to subject so that any low points are soon forgotten. His skittish, awkward delivery may not match the smooth professionalism of sell-out comedians filling concert halls across the country, but Bennett’s issues with expression is something he is very upfront about, and such an intimate performing space encourages this kind of frankness. His style suits the dark jokes he litters throughout Daddy Punchlines, jokes that can crumble too easily but have the audience laughing along more often than not. A side-story about his dog, especially, is seriously funny (if a bit too much information).
Bennett’s show is all about identity – mostly his own, but others as well. Against the backdrop of moves for social justice and against the reprisal of extremist politics, he inserts his own traumatised self to demonstrate how such themes intersect with complicated individuals at every level. He is not making it all about him, but is delivering a provoking foray into polarising issues while trying to pull himself out of a muddy cesspool. His determination to share with his audience leads to some admirable honesty and more than a handful of striking statements.
His black humour is certainly not to everyone’s tastes, and even that is a mixed bag. Bennett makes his show worth the time though courtesy of an upfront discussion of his personal life that he somehow manages to tell with a glint in his eye and enough laughs to keep the audience on his side. You will leave the room with plenty to digest.