Since going viral six years ago for imitating tennis players with unnerving accuracy, impressionist and comedian Josh Berry has capitalised on his success, culminating in a sellout run of his debut Fringe show Voice Thief in 2018. This year, he’s back for more with Josh Berry: Who Does He Think He Is?, a show centred around the very impressions he became famous for.
Make no mistake: Berry’s impressions are second to none. His James Acaster impression – considered so accurate that Acaster himself commented on its hilarity – is truly wonderful, and starts the show off on a strong note. The same goes for his approximation of Andy Murray, complete with face-pulling and eye-scratching.
It’s not just specific celebrities that Berry captures with his merciless wit, either; his artful takedown of lifestyle vloggers and middle-class mums is where he really shines, inhabiting each caricature with ease as he attacks some of their more irritating traits. Avocados, private schools, manufactured authenticity – nothing is off limits for Berry’s biting impersonations.
Unfortunately, Berry does not jump between themes as effortlessly as he jumps between celebrity voices. The tonal shift between an excellent representation of Louis Theroux interrogating a confused heroin addict to the comedian’s reflection on how tabloids feed into societal disunity is more than a little jarring, and the serious topics feel like they have been somewhat forced into an otherwise lighthearted hour. There’s nothing wrong with a comedy show which is entirely easygoing, especially when you’re as talented as Berry – he’s got more than enough charisma to pull off an entire show without needing to shoehorn in an Important Underlying Message. It just feels a little half-hearted, especially in the context of really excellent impressions and effortless riffing off the audience.
But these issues do not feel like much more than teething problems. Berry’s show is centred mainly around impressions and, when he does them, he truly excels. It’s easy to overlook the slightly clumsy pacing when it seems just as if the real Michael McIntyre is strutting around the stage in front of you (“that always gets more laughs than the actual voices”, Berry remarks ruefully). In fact, you’d be well within your rights to go just for the Acaster impression alone. Fair play!