Freelance writer Vince Chadwick writes…

No show has ever lacked artifice more than Andrew O’Neill’s Out of Step, a mixed-bag hour which reaches interesting heights to complement some desperate lows.

O’Neill comes out swinging before an audience which represents one member for every month of the year (he counted us).  The sixty minutes initially threaten to become interminable though as the Englishman struggles to find rhythm with a flurry of lackluster material about yelling to his own sperm, and catchphrases that work in any setting (Nb. they don’t).

Yet O’Neill, who has clearly played to less than capacity rooms before, takes the smart option and goes ‘off mic’ to embrace the intimacy which before then had been awkward. What began as an intrusive, blaring mess gradually rights itself to reveal a worthy meditation on intolerance – ironically enough issuing from a self-announced misanthrope.

O’Neill is a transvestite Metalhead who admits complaining about other people with his girlfriend is a favourite pastime; however he deftly exploits the ironies. Misanthropes face the dilemma of whether they even like each other, and the initial sub-culture labels of Goth or Metalhead can now be hilariously applied everywhere.

The highlight is a long monologue about O’Neill’s first and only fight, on a London bus, after he tried to defend two gay men against the taunts of passing hoodlums. It is the least funny part of the show but we are left captivated by O’Neill’s chutzpah and natural sense of timing in telling a story.

This isn’t to say all the rotten eggs are exorcised. One wishes there was some kind of competency test comedians had to pass before attempting Holocaust jokes. Anti-racist rants produce little more than truisms, and O’Neill seems to have a serious chip on his shoulder about religion which quashes any levity. Unfortunately too he fluffs the ending, peaking too soon only to check his watch and plunge on by reading a joke from his notebook in either a sign of panic or a misguided attempt at amateur-cute.

With more crafting, Andrew O’Neill’s intelligent spirit could shine through even brighter. This misanthrope might be surprised how many people actually like him.

Andrew O’Neill in Out of Step, at the Trades Hall, 8:30pm until 24th April.