Tom Ward: Love Machine (3 stars)

Tom Ward: Love Machine

Nuanced and often inspired performance which defies initially negative impressions

Tom Ward's Madchester-inspired hair-helmet prompts some immediate, if unfair, assumptions about the kind of comedian he is. The beginning of his show also seems to be pointing in a similarly predictable direction when he engages the front rows in 'banter' about their professions and significant others.

This leads to a cringeworthy end-of-the-pier bonhomie that does not bode well for comedy-lovers hoping for something personal or profound. But Ward's initial impression as a purveyor of self-pitying gags about his lack of luck in love and difficult childhood belies a more nuanced performance in which he plays around with words, the experience of sex and his love of music in a way that undercuts machismo, lad culture and the drug-fuelled masculinity of 90s Manchester.

Overall, he doesn't quite manage to pull off his stated aim of delving into the ways in which one can find certainty in belief systems after rejecting religion, but he comes close at times, mixing flights of fancy with a touching vulnerability. There's also a metaphor for orgasms that is particularly inspired. Ending with a surprising musical number (the hour's highlight), Love Machine is a pleasant lesson in the folly of believing first impressions.

Just the Tonic at The Tron, until 27 Aug (not 14), 3.40pm, £7 or Pay What You Want.

Tom Ward: Love Machine

  • 3 stars

CKP and ROAR Group present Tom Ward (Chortle Award Winner 2017, BBC Worldwide, Comedy Central) returns with a picnic of broken dreams to share! And the dome-haired, exuberant loner brings forth quite a banquet. On the menu… heartbreak, living (and dancing) alone in a house with no heating or hot water, mother problems…

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