Joz Norris is painfully aware that the subject of his 2016 show – significant events in his life over the past year, basically – is just about the most predictably clichéd premise that a man-and-a-mic standup hour could possibly exhibit. But while the initial premise might be straight out of the My First Fringe Show tutorial textbook, the show itself is far from it. Norris is a skillful and thoughtful writer, and fastidiously avoids boring or obvious choices throughout the course of the very enjoyable Hello, Goodbye. The show’s title alludes to the key events in Norris’ life this year – he has encountered both love and death.
Norris is positively bouncing with energy tonight, and the low-ceilinged slightly cramped room at The Hive suits his style very well. It’s a shame that the energy and pace don’t sustain themselves consistently throughout the show, which does feel at times more like a series of interlinked set pieces than a consistent single narrative. The transitions between scenes are sometimes jarring, and Norris meanders away from his main theme so often that we don’t really spend much time with the two central characters in his tale. His final couple of gags fall a little flat because of that, which is a pity.
There’s some very strong physical silliness at play here, and Norris excels at being unselfconsciously daft. In fact, the difference between his physical and textual comedy is striking, with the latter occasionally hamstrung by Norris’s own hyper-awareness of cliché and hack.
Much of this show is adventurous and risk-taking, which is all to its credit – although one of the strongest gags is a callback which is unashamedly contrived and beautifully executed. Ultimately, Hello, Goodbye feels a little scaffolded, and Norris’s wilfully shambolic persona isn’t always enough to smooth over the bumps. This is a show that seems like it’s still trying to find its feet at times, but Norris’s skill as a performer and a writer lets us enjoy taking the journey with him.