When it comes to the Fringe, originality is something of a Holy Grail nowadays. With 70 years under her belt, the old girl has seen pretty much everything you could possibly dream of; despite this, Joz Norris still aims for the moon. Not only aiming to bag the prize for longest show title at this year’s festival (The Incredible Joz Norris Locks Himself Inside His Own Show, then Escapes, Against All the Odds!! – he really fought for that second exclamation mark, as well), he also sets himself the sizable feat of trapping himself inside a web of his own making, only to break through it at the show’s finale.
Not a man to mince to his words or welch on audience promises, Norris duly constructs an elaborate cage of twine and masking tape throughout his hour-long act. All the while, he revisits childhood memories and traumas to try and exorcise his ghosts and work out why the hell a man who isn’t overly keen on human interaction would subject himself to such a career. Other than the loose metaphor about “building our own cages”, the web doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of significance, but it’s a catchy gimmick which goes well with Norris’ eminently likeable personality.
Because at the end of the day, that’s pretty much what his show amounts to – a lovable everyman making an idiot of himself onstage for our amusement, while he ostensibly grapples with one or our two skeletons in his closet (and several hundred sandwiches, as well). His shtick relies heavily on storytelling; reliving (sometimes mundane, sometimes inane) experiences from his life (both distant and recent) and ridiculing them for comic effect. He’s certainly not from your Phil Kay or Ross Noble school of storytelling; oh no. His anecdotes are far more grounded in reality, sometimes to an almost painful extent.
The down-to-earth aura that Norris carries makes him immediately relatable and someone you’d fancy buying a pint after the show, but not necessarily one who’ll be amusing enough moose to win any accolades. Having said that, there are still some excellent set pieces involving the colourful literature he’s been reading in dead hours at his day job, as well as some entertaining musings on the man who inspired this show and the far-reaching effect that his tumultuous upbringing has had and still has on his life choices. An hour of solidly relatable but unspectacular comedy entertainment, with a hugely underappreciated closing gag.