Rhys Nicholson – ‘Eurgh’ [FringeTIX]
Rhys Nicholson @ Rhino Room – Beer Garden
10:15pm, Thu 13 Feb 2014
I first encountered Rhys Nicholson at a Friday night Rhino Room session last year: his ten- or fifteen-minutes onstage was deliriously funny, playing up his outrageously amplified camp-ness with material that would make most comedians blush. But this was the first time I’d been to see Nicholson perform a full set of material… and there’s an element of danger to that.
The first week of Fringe is always a bit of a dicey affair when it comes to comedy: whilst some comedians with a wealth of experience are confident enough to take to the stage and cherry-pick the material that seems appropriate for the performance, younger comics tend to want to leave the writing of their shows to the last minute. And that’s fair enough – I sure as hell defer all my work to the last minute, too. But, as a result, the first week of Fringe is a potential minefield of jokes that haven’t really been tested in the wild, along with “I don’t care what you think, that’s my favourite joke and I’m leaving it in” quips.
And that’s pretty much where Rhys was this evening… but he has an incredibly compelling saving grace.
Because Rhys Nicholson’s stage presence is absolutely amazing.
From the moment he walks onstage and spunks glittery confetti all over the crowd, he utterly dominates the stage with a thick layer of campy makeup. You never get the feeling that this is a stage personae; Rhys owns that presentation, and when he trots out gay-laced material, it’s delivered in an almost matter-of-fact manner: it’s like he’s saying “hey, if it’s shocking, that’s your problem.”
There is a central thread to the show – the idea that people can be classified as “sheep” or “guard llamas” – that somewhat justifies the constant presence of an inflatable llama onstage; but the use of that thread as a constant story beat is tenuous at best, though the visual juxtaposition of an outrageously camp looking man next to an inflatable llama is delicious. And, as mentioned, the material in Eurgh is clearly still being fleshed out, and Nicholson seemed to have a habit of rolling straight on without pausing after a previous joke dies; whilst this keeps the audience bubbling along, it also leads to a few disconcerting moments where topics wildly shift.
But, in the absence of an end-to-end set of solid material, there’s still Nicholson’s stage presence to admire: and he is a magnificent specimen. For a loose five or ten, he is absolutely solid gold, dark and twisted and acerbic; when he builds up his material to provide a full set, he’ll be unmissable. This evening, though, he was easy to like and laugh with (and at), but I came away wanting a little more.