From the moment Brett Johnson greets his audience at the door with a handshake and a smile, it’s clear that this is not one of those shows where those in the front row will tremble in fear of mockery or one-sided interactions. That impression is only cemented as the lights dim, Johnson announces himself with mock solemnity and unleashes a whirlwind of exuberantly silly dance moves, breaking the ice with a sledgehammer.
It’s this genuine and gregarious nature that will shine through throughout the Poly-Theist’s hour-long runtime, as Johnson takes us along on his own personal journey from strict Evangelism through married non-monogamy to his current setup. While the ideas explored might come right out of left-field and sound wishy-washy to those who haven’t entertained them before, Johnson’s honesty and down-to-earth humour prevent the polyamorous themes from becoming pretentious or patronising.
It’s a testament to his ability as both a raconteur and rationalist that Johnson is able to turn an unsentimental eye on his experiences, but still maintain an endearing bond with the audience and his own past while doing so. Those of a sensitive or overly religious disposition might find some of the expositions a little uncomfortable to bear, but anyone with an open mind and a quickness to see the funny side of things will find plenty to like about the show.
That is not to say that Johnson’s delivery is faultless. A tour of the US will have undoubtedly ironed out many kinks in the narrative, but there are moments when gags aimed at an American audience fall flat in front of an Edinburgh crowd. Similarly, there are one or two set-ups that are a little too laboured to make their pay-off worthwhile, and Johnson is occasionally guilty of waiting a split second too long for a laugh that never comes for throwaway lines here and there.
Twice in the show, Johnson mentions characters who use a cool exterior as a front for their kind heart and good intentions; he himself does not bother with such a façade. What you see is what you get: that is, a nice guy who is eager to please, and sometimes a little thrown off when his efforts don’t quite elicit the response he’d expected. More confidence in the material – and nonchalance to how it is received – would perhaps make this show tighter and snappier, but in any case, it’s an enjoyably engaging and vulnerably sincere assessment of polyamory that educates and intrigues as much as it entertains.