Probably my favourite thing about real life is that it’d make a really shit piece of art. The plot is usually paper thin, character development is random at best, the actors barely seem to understand their roles and the dialogue is usually shite. Like some of the more unfortunate shows at the Edinburgh Fringe real life only ever gets any sort of audience because it’s free and people can’t think of anything better to do. Unlike some of those shows though you can’t sneak a bottle of cheap rum and a plastic cup into the venue of reality so the whole affair can really start to drag. But stick with me here, because I’m still talking about why all of those failings amount to some of the best reasons I can think of to stick around until everyone gets chucked out at the end.
Y’see unlike any piece of art, be it literary, visual, performed, crafted or keyed onto a toilet door, life can, while being really badly put together, give you more, better and more interesting experiences than anything else you’re likely to find – even if you have Net Flix and Amazon Prime both. And the best art or comedy or music knows that as it walks away from anything fancy like plot or coherence and just slaps down before you the jumbled ridiculousness of life – which is the one universally translatable force for us all. And that’s why after barely having had time to recover from the trip back I’m sitting down to make my first post-Edinburgh Fringe recommendation – ‘Normally Abnormal’ with Dave Chawner.
Normally Abnormal is without doubt a stand-up one even with the big slab of human awareness that it’s built on. Dave is an anorexic with experience of depression, a negligible sex drive and a fondness for one night stands of spooning. All of which are shared and talked about as part of the heart of the show but none of which end up feeling like the focal point of it. Which is the clever part really. The declared subject matter here, the bit that for a lot of stand up becomes, in one form or another, the defining factor of a show is here just a composite part of the person on stage. A testimony to all the honesty that Dave obviously aims for in his set.
Issues which could quite easily be held up over the show as being the point are subsumed into the beautiful mundanity of human experience and regurgitated as well crafted comedy. There’s no attempt to weave a plot line or neatly summed up narrative from the subject matter. No grand moral conclusions are reached, no profound motivational speeches are given, nothing is neatly packaged at the end of the night because as I said, life is too poor at plots and structure for anything like that to work.
Instead Dave offers a funny and thoroughly human insight into the sort of aspects and issues of life that for all of us defy any grandstanding or definition. He doesn’t take socially taboo subjects and try to present or define them, he’s simply honest in himself. Which when so many people talk about wanting to ‘normalise’ or open up debate on issues of mental health and long denied experiences is genuine relief. Because here they’re not being normalised or opened, they are normal and Dave is open about them.
The Fringe isn’t far from being over now, so it’s a bit late to be plugging his show there but no doubt he’s going to be gigging out there, somewhere before long for you to catch him. In fact going by the Scrabble players wet dream of acronym based charities and groups that he seems to be involved with I’d be surprised if there was an evening of the year where he isn’t on a stage somewhere saying something. So add him on Twitter (@DaveChawner) and keep an eye out but if you are around Edinburgh at the moment I know for sure that you can catch him at The Loft above the Counting House pub on West Nicholson Street until the 30th. Which, as a pro tip, also has an offy around the corner and no bag checks so already the show’s got one up on most parts of life.