James Dowdeswell is here to talk booze. He grew up in a pub so has a lifelong relationship with the hard stuff and plenty to say about it. As a topic for humour, it’s solid, reliable source material, and while occasionally things get a bit hackneyed—people drink a lot in Scotland, don’t you know?—he’s done his homework for this, plying us with facts, figures and George Orwell references and then riffing off them.
There’s always something satisfyingly accomplished about a comedian like Dowdeswell who has picked a topic, prepared a set and delivered it. No reliance on projecting a huge ego, no self-referential stuff, just graft and craft. He’s polite and warm with the audience, a very generous-spirited performer, although the audience don’t necessarily warm to him like they could, even when he’s trying to engage them in a game of ‘guess the fake wine brand’.
He treats us to a couple of musical numbers – a Wurzels pastiche and a middle-class rap – that won’t be the funniest thing you’ll see on the Fringe, but have their own easy-going appeal. He also amusingly explains how he uses his lazy eye to get out of fights in pubs. A likeable chap is Dowdeswell, now without the beard which he sported on TV and in the Fringe programme, and it’s an enjoyable hour spent in his company, if perhaps not soaring to spectacular heights.