Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Phil Nichol: The Weary Land

Phil Nichol
The Assembly Rooms

Usually active in several productions each Fringe, Canadian comedian and actor Phil Nichol this year is concentrating largely on this confessional, biographical piece in a tiny space in The Assembly Rooms.

At the centre of this tale is his relationship with his ex-wife, but to get there we hear about his initial upbringing in Scotland, in the new town of Cumbernauld, before moving Canada, in Pickering near Toronto, at the age of five and his first love, Andrea Smith, who becomes important again to him later in the story.

As an adult, we hear about his rising success with the band Corky and the Juice Pigs and as an actor, being told he is to be "the next big thing" in Hollywood, and his resulting arrogance—which he refers to as "being a dick"—that alienated most of his friends.

He met Kate while oerforming in the Melbourne Comedy Festival and they were soon living together and then married. Things, of course, eventually started to go wrong with the marriage, which he puts down to his own behaviour, but not made better by the fact that she started to have affairs with two of his friends. There were several attempts to repair the marriage including a bizarre visit to marriage guidance agency Relate.

The piece is delivered as a series of anecdotes which appear to be semi-improvised, perhaps still being developed as the show run proceeds; at one point in the reviewed performance he even stopped and went back to cover a bit he'd missed. This actually adds to the feeling that this is a personal journey in an intimate space, someone sharing aspects of his life that were painful but which he is now ready to share.

I feel there should be a warning here that there is one part of the story that will bring tears to the eyes of around half of the audience: in his own words, "I broke my cock".

The overall structure is a bit shaky and some parts are more interesting than others, but a lot of the show is funny—Nichol himself is the butt of most of the humour—and delivered with the skill of an experienced comic and with energy and passion. He claims responsibility for most of the terrible things that happened, but neither of them, he and his wife, come out of the story looking blameless.

While it still looks like a work in progress, it's an entertaining and charming piece performed by a charismatic storyteller

Reviewer: David Chadderton