The Vanity Project
The last two shows I got to see at this year's VAULT Festival both have their origins in death and both made me laugh.
Following My World Has Exploded A Little Bit, I saw Angus Dunican's The Vanity Project.
Last year, Dunican was asked to speak at a friend's funeral. That might have been enough to prompt reflection on how people present themselves and how they are remembered by others, but this friend was something of a congenital liar (in a nice way) so this inevitably led to the thorny issue of truthfulness in self-portrayal.
Dunican has a theory that as children our characters are fluid and as adults we struggle to live with what is left when they have solidified into a single form.
From this wellspring comes some very funny observational comedy that mostly bears scrutiny. And, even more refreshingly for stand-up, his material isn't tediously over-peppered with swearing.
Another appealingly novel feature of the material is that Dunican has an interesting vocabulary—who uses the word "fabulist" these days?—and he isn't afraid to use the occasional erudite turn of phrase. It is not every comic who can get away with including "common intellectual line of enquiry" in a gag.
From Dunican it all sounds very natural—his delivery has a storytelling feel to it—and anyway being well educated and middle class isn't a crime.
He is self-deprecating, quick to smile and has a relaxed manner, which combine to make him likable so he can carry this slightly bookish comedy off with ease, but, in case you were to think that he is an over-intellectualising clever dick, he isn't averse to taking things back to basics and dropping in the occasional fart joke.
It also helps that he is prepared to put himself in the firing line. His private education, family and previous employment as a theatre technician—a pretentious builder who gets to drill holes but also has ideas on how to stage Beckett—all get shot down.
Watching a stand-up set about how people present themselves is bound to make you think that perhaps the performer is just inhabiting a character crafted for performance, but, even if this is not the real Dunican, it is certainly one of his funny incarnations.
VAULT Festival continues to 5 March.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti