Apr 24, 2016 Theatre
If you could press reset on your life, what would you do differently? If your answer is “nothing”, returning British comedian James Acaster might change your mind with his 2016 show.
Previewing Reset in the Southern Hemisphere before it stretches its legs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August – where Acaster has routinely been met with critical acclaim and award nominations – he doesn’t hesitate to admit he’d forgotten how tough Auckland crowds can be.
Acaster is very British. He’s self-deprecating, dresses like the bookish underdog in a Richard Curtis film and observes the quirks and hypocrisies of everyday life with a uniquely British pedantry. To New Zealand audiences (I’m surmising as a British expat) he comes across as much more eccentric than he would in barmy Blighty.
Perhaps it’s this dynamic that put him on the back foot at The Classic on Saturday evening, where audience and performer didn’t quite seem to click. Acaster shared his own theories as to why the show didn’t go the uproarious way of recent Melbourne runs; at points we mistook silliness for sincerity, we didn’t seem to get the historical context of key material, he spoke too quietly, too slowly…
But was post-show rumination and self-criticism all part of the act? It had the hallmarks of the closed-circle storytelling we’ve come to expect from Acaster, where call backs are used so sophisticatedly they border on the profound.
Either way, he was far too hard on himself. This is a magnificent show, full of subtlety and brave restraint that has the audience engaged – arguably less audibly on this occasion than in previous shows – throughout. Acaster doesn’t slave over the theme either, venturing lovely tangents like one about the somnolent effects of the Kiwi idiom “boil the jug”. His razor-sharp improv skills, imaginative use of language and understated but always-compelling delivery mean that no matter how many times you hypothetically pressed reset on Reset, you’d still be in for an entertaining time.
Reset, 23-30 April and 3-7 May, The Classic. Book tickets.