Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Jamie Bowen: Heart Goes Boom: Comedy Festival Review

Jamie Bowen: Heart Goes Boom: Comedy Festival Review

The old saying goes that out of tragedy, comedy emerges.

Well, in Kiwi comic Jamie Bowen's new show, there's so much tragedy that it's inevitable that you end up with laughter.

Heart Goes Boom sees Jamie really bring his A game in one of the most personal shows I've ever seen him deliver. Which is perhaps inevitable given this show is about the loss of his father, his girlfriend and his professional path - it's a darkly comic look at one man's slide into an unenviable pit of despair.

But yet, thanks to a masterful performance from Bowen himself, and a fizzing energy that effervesces forth from the moment he understatedly walks out into a sold out Basement crowd on a grey drizzly Auckland night, it's a riotous - and well deserved -success.

Blending physicality and killer material, Jamie takes us on a journey that will leave you with aching sides and also an aching heart as he clutches the black humour from life's continual jabs.

From the bittersweet irony of his London career going so well to being brought back down to Earth by a single phone call from New Zealand, to the manner in which his father embraced the bleakest of news, this is a deeply personal show that touches the heart as much as it touches the funny bone.

And such a performer as Jamie is, he never loses sight of the fact that it's a show aimed at making you laugh as he ruminates on the absurdities of the hand life can deal you.

From his philosophy on how life is like a series of boxes (beautifully expanded from the 4 minute killer set he delivered at the Comedy Gala) to a lovely throwaway turn of phrase to a story on how he tried to help a homeless man on London, Heart Goes Boom never veers away from its MO - to leave you amused as well as thinking about life's more bizarre moments.

The at times manic Bowen manages to elicit huge amounts of empathy on the stage without ever directly seeking our sympathy; he's a masterful storyteller, stand-up and a man whose devilish twinkle in his eye is never lost when things get bad. It's an epic - yet deeply personal - journey, but one which never loses sight of the minutiae of life, reminding you of the moments which are there to savour, as well as bringing plenty of heart within the heartache. He's previously inherited character work but when it comes down to it, his comedy chops shine out because you just couldn't make this stuff up.

While Heart Goes Boom doesn't exactly lead to a massive epiphany (there are plenty of little ones dropped throughout the show, meaning you don't feel the massive cathartic release at the end), it does strike a chord thanks to Jamie's timing, extremely strong material and a willingness to laugh at himself as well as others. Audience interaction is thrown in - but it's restrained, amusing and makes Jamie seem highly approachable both on and off the stage.

In Heart Goes Boom, Jamie's delivered his finest hour of stand up - deftly blending richly resonant and bittersweet material with a physically infectious presence that's hard to deny.

Make no mistake - your heart will break for Jamie on this journey, but your funny bone and belly laughs will assure you that he's laughing along with it too.

Read a Q&A with Jamie Bowen on Heart Goes Boom

Heart Goes Boom continues at Auckland's Basement Upstairs until Saturday May 10th at 8.45pm

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