Hal Branson: Mbolo
- Katie Flannery
- 17 August 2018
Amusing if bamboozling fun about youthful indiscretion
Hal Branson is, as much as a dealer-turned-comedian can be, a lot of wholesome fun. His debut hour-long set, Mbolo, centres on a seven-month trip to Uganda in 2003, where he intended to clean up his act with charity work and an 'opened mind', but left as foggy as ever. Now sober after many years of fighting his demons and struggling with bipolar disorder, Branson's comedy is less a celebration of his new life and more a reflection on the errors of his youth.
Though the motivation for this theme was clear, Branson's loveable and humble humour couldn't save his show from a lack of structure, and whilst his tale included some very funny moments, his meandering and uneven delivery made for a few awkward sections: in particular, one routine on class issues slowed him down. Seemingly nervous, the comic was also stunted rather than supported by his choice of props: a slide-show which brought the rambling nature of his performance into an unflattering light.
It is testament to Branson's comic potential, however, that his audience remained engaged throughout, likely due to his sweet demeanour. With some wry commentary about the errors of white 'voluntourism' in the developing world, a few political snipes, and a quietly tragic insight into his own mental illness, he scrambled together an hour of tickling (if confusing) fun.
Just The Tonic at The Mash House, until 26 Aug, 6.10pm, £5 (£4) in advance or donations at the venue.