Nathan Caton could have been an architect, according to the over-friendly student handing out flyers for his show at Pleasance Courtyard, but decided to give comedy a shot instead. It looks a wise move.
In spite of a slightly nervous opening and his claims that his younger brother holds little faith in him, Caton is as comfortable a performer as you will encounter at this year’s Fringe. Nonchalantly broaching the subjects of racial stereotyping and teenage gangs, he undercuts any anticipated threat by focusing on the mundane and the ridiculous. The main danger of attending a hip-hop gig is to your sanity rather than your physical wellbeing we are shown, as Tinie Tempah’s lyrics are deconstructed as the travails of a man who is unable to assemble a flat pack wardrobe and who has a dubious grasp of British geography.
Caton has a winning line in self-deprecation, notably in terms of his outward appearance, admitting to a physical likeness to both Lemar and R Kelly (it’s the braids, he reckons.) Later he will concede, with some reluctance, that he’d be Vanessa Feltz’s ‘type’. Any vestiges of ego would likely be nullified by his strong, protective family. Caton the younger, who is rendered like a character from a Noel Clarke film, all ‘bruvs’ and teeth-sucking, thinks his elder brother is a big softie (he has a point, apparently) and Grandma Caton (think a Caribbean version of agony aunt Denise from This Morning) is prone to giving away his intimate secrets in public places. Exaggerated characterisations, though these undoubtedly are, they provide an effective hook that Caton returns to regularly.
It is a shame that that so much of the first quarter of the show is taken up in talking to members of the audience as Caton has more than enough material of his own to require their impetus. Besides, Edinburgh crowds this early in the run really aren’t that giving.
It is clear that this routine has been honed. Fewer ideas are left undeveloped the further the show progresses and the second half in particular follows the rough pattern of a sitcom. Whether it is details of his lactose intolerance or undesirable comparisons with more famous comedians, lines are cast and dropped, to be gathered up again in a very neat finale.
It’s a victory for design and planning over the ramshackle. Looks like that architecture training came in handy after all.