Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Cayden Hunter is just awful, which is just great for us. Cayden (the deliciously realised creation of character comedian Jon Pointing) is an acting coach, as well as a writer, mentor, all-round smoothy, raging narcissist and fragile self-deluder.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
In the consistently hilarious Act Natural, we are ushered into his sacred space to benefit from a masterclass in acting which is really, you know, a pathway to self-actualisation, if you’re open to following it, but if you’re not ready yet, that’s cool too. Yeah?
The format is elegantly simple: we in the audience are Cayden’s students, subjected to his pontifications on the craft, his step-by-step guide to meaningful acting, his cringe-making autobiographical devised pieces, a couple of participatory exercises (don’t worry, the spotlight stays firmly on him) and the occasional glimpse of a painfully lost psyche in freefall.
The formal range of the show is impressive, moving from motivational speaking and set-piece monologues to improvisation and mime. Some of the writing veers toward the cartoonish although Pointing’s embodiment of his character’s persona is copper-bottomed.
Cayden stands in the fine British tradition of self-deluded ogres but he’s no crude stereotype: Pointing has imagined him in nuanced detail, exploiting his own good looks in the name of a character whose egotistical manipulation of his environment is undercut by a palpable need for multiple kinds of validation. He stays the plausible side of grotesque, using judiciously over-articulated physical gestures, over-projected, faintly mid-Atlantic delivery, and facial expressions that flicker between self-satisfaction and occasional irritation at a lack of sufficient awe from his students.
Pointing’s engagement with the audience is great too, remaining in character while embracing what happens in the room.
It cements a Faustian pact in which we submit to this would-be arty alpha in the hope he’ll provide something of value. Which, despite himself, he does.
Until 27 August. Tomorrow 7:15pm.