Jim Tavaré returning to Edinburgh twenty years after his last festival appearance would, under normal circumstances, be cause for a commemoration. But for Tavaré the last year has been punctuated by real life struggles as he recovers from a near-fatal accident on a winding Californian cliff-top road.
He opens with some signature silly gags and puns, and the audience is not initially bothered by the absence of his trademark double-bass. Instead, the use of Powerpoint simply signposts that this set will deviate wildly from the comedy that led to him being known as the heir to Tommy Cooper in the early nineties.
At the core of the routine are the events that led up to the accident and the subsequent recovery process. This brush with mortality is mined for comic effect by highlighting the strange little details of the traumatic event: the mundane reasons for the journey (purchasing chicken wire), Tavaré’s wife puzzling over the GPS showing the car only a mile from their house (in a police yard).
When Tavaré’s presentation reaches the hospital and the ensuing life saving efforts of the doctors and nurses, the focus then switches to his onerous recovery. The ongoing emotional and physical toll seem to negate the possibility of humour and Tavaré addresses this head-on by giving examples of his financial, vocational and physical difficulties.
The limitations imposed by the crash are more visible as the set reaches its conclusion and it becomes apparent that the Powerpoint presentation is providing an understandable safety net for Tavaré. At times the stark reality of the accident eclipses the comedy, but Tavaré’s spirit cannot be denied.