Will Seaward is either a shameless dissembler, or a man very likely to die horribly in the Amazon in a few months’ time. Seaward has never been a comedian to shy away from a challenge, having attempted in previous shows to take over the world and turn lead into gold. This year, he’s recruiting for an expedition to search for El Dorado, the legendary lost City Of Gold. And he’s serious – at least, as serious as a compulsively silly comic such as Seaward can ever get.
The City Of Gold – generally reckoned by most authorities to be a non-existent fable – is something of an obsession for Seaward. He dives straight in to the most outlandish tinfoil-hatted theories of collusion and conspiracy when introducing his audience to this most epic of treasure hunts. We’re inducted into the full history of the legend, and Seaward takes the opportunity to tell the tale of some of the explorers who have already tried – and emphatically failed – to find El Dorado.
Seaward is smart and joyful, and his obvious enthusiasm is genuine and infectious. Ultimately, though, this show is a concept in search of a justification. There are some fascinating facts about the Amazon basin, its various inhabitant flora and fauna that will kill you stone cold dead in a variety of horrific ways, and the historical search for El Dorado; but we’re never sure when Seaward will indulge in a tangent of silliness, so we can never consume the facts uncynically. It leaves the audience in a constant state of mild uncertainty: is this an historical anecdote, or a farcical concoction from Seaward’s admittedly spectacular imagination? And it’s here that the fundamental dissatisfaction of … Goes To El Dorado is really apparent: it’s interesting and engaging, and presented by a hugely likeable host, but it’s all-too-often factual rather than farcical. At its heart, Will Seaward Goes To El Dorado is only intermittently funny. That’s a pity, especially in the hands of Seaward, whose reformed-wildman appearance belies his subtle and nuanced comedy chops.
Whilst it purports to be a story of the joyful Quixotic quest for the ultimate hidden treasure, … Goes To El Dorado is actually a show in desperate search of its own identity. As a recruitment tool for Seaward’s intended expedition (which, to be fair, is all that Seaward ever professes the show to be) it’s a success, with several audience members signing Seaward’s recruitment sheet at the end of the show; but as a piece of live comedy it’s confused and ultimately only intermittently successful. Seaward is obviously still getting to grips with his show, and a couple of key sections are inadvertently omitted, requiring Seaward to retrospectively introduce them when they are called back to later. One gets the feeling that Seaward himself doesn’t yet know exactly what his show is meant to be, and that uncertainty permeates what could otherwise be a strong show from a reliable Fringe favourite.