James McNicholas: The Boxer (3 stars)

This article is from 2019

James McNicholas: The Boxer

credit: Idil Sukan

Touching personal story isn't a total knockout

One third of Fringe sketch favourites BEASTS, James McNicholas' solo offering is a moving blend of stand-up and storytelling, though it doesn't quite land all its punches. He begins in character as Terry, a bolshy lad from Paddington who moves to the US as a teenager in the 1950s, joins the marines and takes up boxing. As it turns out, Terry is quite good at the sport, and by his mid-20s is the world middleweight champion.

The Terry in question is Terry Downes, the title holder from 1961-62, occasional film actor, and McNicholas' maternal grandfather. Slipping between his own personal story and his grandad's, McNicholas slowly builds up a twin tale that takes on all the tropes of a boxing movie. It's a touching hour – and a personal revelation by the comic later in the show is particularly emotional – but the humour lacks some of the killer instinct of the best sketches by BEASTS or Pappy's (whose Tom Parry directs this show). With some refining of structure and dialogue, The Boxer could really ram its emotional message home. At the moment, it's not quite one of the heavy hitters of this year's Fringe.

Pleasance Courtyard, until 25 Aug, 4.15pm, £8–£10 (£7–£9).

James McNicholas: The Boxer

  • 3 stars

Katie Storey Productions James' grandad, Terry Downes, became world middleweight champion in 1961. By contrast, James' school PE teacher once told him he was so unfit he'd be dead by the time he was 23. This is a story about boxing told by someone who's never boxed. His glasses would come off, for a start. Solo debut from…