Jonny Pelham: Off Limits
- Suzanne Black
- 15 August 2019
Important and difficult show about trauma
How do you write and perform a stand-up show about being sexually abused as a child? Heck, how do you review one? Jonny Pelham has previously mined his potentially tragic backstory to talk about disability and dealing with parents who are therapists. This year features a frank discussion of how childhood trauma has affected his adult life, from his relationships to daydreaming too much.
Self-deprecating and more prone to poking fun at himself than using his Off Limits topic to shock, Pelham mostly comes across as an affable, likeable guy (although calling a latecomer a 'dickhead' might contradict this). There is the worry that this could become a therapy hour in which Pelham gets more out of it than the audience. Indeed, the best parts are descriptions of his elaborate escapist fantasies involving pirates given that they are uncomplicatedly funny. He's given himself a very difficult job with this show, which may have a saving grace in helping similarly affected members of the audience.
With Nanette, Hannah Gadsby demonstrated exactly how to include heart-achingly awful personal experiences into the stand-up arena that is satisfying for the audience while also speaking to a need for a larger societal discussion. Jonny Pelham isn't quite there yet.
Just the Tonic at The Caves, until 25 Aug, 3.20pm, £5–£7.50 in advance or donations at the venue.