Returning to the scene of a Fringe triumph is not as easy as it sounds. Particularly when your microphone turns your voice into a staccato beat and your slideshow appears to be on Ritalin.
Five minutes in and Des Bishop is looking tense. Understandably so. Des Bishop has little under six more performances to tell (and, if the projector will ever works properly, to show) the public that the things his father achieved were greater than all of things he hadn't. To tell us that no one could emulate the fantasy of heroism that Bishop Senior weighed his worth against. To tell us about his father's terminal cancer and the race to 'leave nothing left unsaid'. When you invite pressure like that, technical hitches you can do without.
Bishop is back, then, with ostensibly the same show that won him so many admirers last year, with two notable exceptions. For reasons of topicality, one of the slides has been changed, and for the better, gaining one of the night's biggest laughs. For reasons of an altogether less trivial nature, the ending has also changed. A former gymnast, bit-part actor and model, Mike Bishop was introduced to the audience at the end of last year's routine, for which his life and his frustrations with the way it turned out remains the narrative thread. Such an ending is unrepeatable this time around. Mike Bishop died earlier this year.
All of which makes this something of a cathartic experience, not just for Des Bishop, you feel, but for the audience as well. When Bishop asks at the beginning of the set "is there anyone here who doesn't know what this show is about?” a single hand is raised in response. We know the story and we've returned to let him finish what he began last year.
Bishop plays clips of his father's cameo appearances in the films Zulu and The Day of the Triffids; playing a blind pilot in the latter ('he didn't start blind. This isn't Ryanair.') This role stands out as a symbol of Mike Bishop's thwarted ambition even more so than that of James Bond, which was given to George Lazenby instead, thereby rendering Bishop 'worse than the worst Bond.' For Bishop Jnr, the blind pilot role became a tool to taunt his father in punishment for the feeling that the life he had made was second best to the life he didn't.
The show isn't as uncomfortable as it sounds, nor quite as sentimental. There are plenty of laughs here, particularly in Bishop's routines about adolescence, the American-Irish experience and his deconstruction of idiomatic expressions. In every family photograph projected onto the backdrop, Bishop picks out a flaw in his younger self and exploits it mercilessly. Evidently, he wasn't always the stylish individual he appears tonight.
The jokes, though, are incidental here. Bishop's momentum is leading him to something more important: the conclusion that heroism is ludicrous; that success takes many forms.
Mirroring life, the desire to leave nothing unsaid (and, truly, his father appears to have said everything, including things you'd probably not mention over afternoon tea) means that Bishop runs over time. No one minds. The remarkable stagecraft of last year's finale begets a capable understudy, which if anything is even more showy and more affecting. Yes, really.
Des Bishop has pulled it off again. Was there ever any doubt?