If Ricky Gervais’ masterpiece The Office is the first modern, mainstream celebration of all things cringey and uncomfortable, in its wake a slew of comedies making light of awkward moments have followed. In his third year at the Fringe, James Loveridge adopts this very same brand of humour to bring together an hour of cathartic comedy, guaranteed to exorcise a few skeletons from his closet and tickle the ribs of all in attendance in the process.
Prior to the start of the show, Loveridge hands out slips of paper to the packed-out audience, who are invited to (anonymously) jot down some of their own most embarrassing memories. It’s a neat idea for crowd involvement and sets the tone for what will be a judgement-free hour of confessions and wise-cracks. Unfortunately, Loveridge seems to gloss over these contributions later in the show, although it could be perhaps that this particular audience hasn’t offered up too many anecdotes worthy of elaboration.
Aside from the interactive element (which plays out as little more than a gimmick on this specific occasion), Loveridge expertly lampoons himself by revisiting his own past misdemeanours. The sand castle experience which gives the show its title is particularly well-handled, with Loveridge doling out the tale in chunks. Although each particular rendition seems like the last, final version of the story, the big reveal at the end benefits massively from his piecemeal delivery style.
His use of media (in the shape of pre-recorded phone calls and voicemail messages) also works well, with big laughs especially coming from the story of his tech-savvy friend and his devious pranks. The only complaint is that the show seems to lack structure (other than the overarching theme of cringe), lurching from one excruciating story to the next, and its frantic pace leaves hardly a pause for breath. Loveridge’s delivery would maybe benefit from a more relaxed approach, though his crowd banter and stage-side manner are impeccable.
With the focus being entirely on the many cock-ups and embarrassing moments Loveridge has accrued throughout his life (as we all have), the show can seem to feel like a one-trick pony at times. However, it’s a trick that this pony does particularly well and anyone who makes it along to his show will surely leave with a face aching from smiling and sides sore from laughing, happy to part with their cash in his bucket on exit. For baring his soul to us, he’s surely earned it.