Tristan Bates Theatre, Tuesday 13th December 2011
It’s hard to believe that this one man show is the first live outing for self-proclaimed “internet phenomenon” Matt Fisher. Strutting onstage to cringe-inducing power rock and mis-timed powerpoint slides, the absurdity of this fantastically conceived creation seemed even better suited to the stage than screen. Standing before us in a shocking red shirt, tucked into what I can only assume were women’s jeggings, the intimate space of the Tristan Bates Theatre allowed the full, remarkable physicality of Joz Norris’s performance to take shape in this hugely exciting debut .
Already creating buzz for himself on the stand up circuit, Norris is an astonishing character actor. Matt Fisher is the sort of rare comic creation that is absurd yet believable, repulsive yet endearing, and performed with such commitment that the boundaries of what is real and what is performed become blurred. He is a larger than life, utterly deluded and always brilliantly, unintentionally funny. To liken him to other comedy figures would perhaps be a disservice to the invention that has gone into his making, but if you can imagine the bastard son of Howard Moon and David Brent, then make what you’re imagining ten times funnier, you’d be on the right track.
Despite leaving the stage to make a phone call, finishing the show before the much hyped piano recital to attend “an invitation to a booty call” and all the while exaggerating wildly about his own successes (“Don’t you know who I am? I’ve got a BA!”) the audience remain firmly on Matt’s side. Not least because, among the arrogance, the un-PC faux pas and the sometimes aggressive sexism, there are moments of genuine tragedy in the piece. I can’t have been the only audience member who got a lump in their throat watching him fail spectacularly with a woman of his own creation to the soundtrack of “Lady in Red”, during a one man demonstration of “nightclubbing”. Along with snapshots of his unhappy childhood this made what could have been no more than an excellent parody into a rounded and affecting hour of entertainment. The complete lack of social awareness that Matt possesses became both believable and loveable when we realised that his two best friends only begrudgingly entertain his notions of celebrity, and even the women in his own head turn him down in disgust.
Finishing the evening with an emotional ukulele ballad about a past girlfriend who dumped him over MSN Messenger, we leave Matt with a glimmer of genuine hope in his otherwise fantastical world. Heading off optimistically to meet a woman, he concedes to using just one instrument in his finale (despite the £300 hire charge for the piano), in a subtle change of atmosphere from his entrance. This made for an uplifting conclusion, brilliantly undercut with some DVD outtakes of his supposed “upcoming feature film”.
This was some of the most original and involving comedy that I’ve seen for some time. With the plethora of stand ups currently saturating the comedy market, it’s incredibly refreshing to see something different, daring and pulled off with exceptional skill and timing. I’m now eagerly awaiting what Matt Fisher does next, and with a debut show of this quality don’t be surprised if Joz Norris and his wonderfully executed alter ego become a prolific presence on the comedy scene next year.