Yet another amiable young man at this year’s Fringe, James Bran is almost defiantly low-key and self-effacing. In a way, the lunch time slot at the couldn’t-be-less-salubrious-if-a-tramp-was-pissing-in-the-corner Cowgatehead is the perfect venue for this least showbiz of comedians.
With relentless geniality, Bran states that a large bulk of his act consists of haikus he’s written, at the behest of his therapist (“He said try poetry. Haikus are really short, and I’m nothing if not workshy”). There’s a frisson of alarm in the audience, perhaps a level down from if he’d pulled out a guitar and asked if they’d thought about Jesus today. The vibe has gone from urban Narcotics Anonymous meeting to fundraiser for a dilapidated church hall. Bran even goes as far to declare a walkout amnesty at twenty minutes. Teeth are gritted…
And a perfectly decent fifty minutes is enjoyed. There is a constant hum of amusement throughout. The haikus inevitably vary in quality, but there are very few that don’t draw at least an appreciative chuckle from some of the audience, who all seem quite willing to go with the flow (not one person leaves during the amnesty). Invisible Badminton and Other Dreams is a gentle little beast that is actually an ideal little appetiser for a full day of comedy.
Bran is aware of the niche appeal of his material, and incorporates odd little elements like “headsketball”, in which he wears a helmet with basketball hoop attached allows the crowd to pelt him with tennis balls, and his dream book. From this is derived both the title of the show and a curiously engaging and surreal ending to events which cleverly ties up several strands.
Bran’s comedy rewards careful listening, as the joke is often buried between the lines of the poems, and part of the laughter may well be self-congratulatory after having worked it out. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, of course, but Bran acknowledges this. Whether he’s content to follow his own little path, or ambition or necessity will lead him down a road more travelled remains to be seen, but there is a lot to like here.