Comedy review: Adam Hess: Cactus

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: So relentless is Adam Hess's imagination, that while no single narrative can contain all his jokes, he needs to force them in anyway.

Heroes @ The Hive (Venue 313)


Occasionally breaking off from his core tale to toss out a few observations or supposed facts about himself, these are pithy one-liners that vary the pace of his increasingly reliable storytelling approach.

For all of the cognitive dissonance and acute technical skill he displays in his writing, pairing unfamiliar concepts and finding fresh cultural truths in say, how Americans hold torches differently to the British, in his personal life he seems locked into a recurring pattern: initially of heartache and discombobulation, before he bumbles into an encounter with an old flame, whereupon he must suppress quirks developed in his dysfunctional youth if he’s to fulfil his teenage desires.

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Just watching this nervy, excitable performer can be dizzying enough. But being him must be exhausting. Perhaps the source material supplying the often mortifying detail of his anecdotes, his adolescent diaries, still exerts too great a hold on him.

Certainly, when he recalls a school games lesson gone hilariously awry, which found him in a boat floating out towards the English Channel, it’s of a piece with the contemporary decision-making that signed him up to be a medical trial guinea pig. Though indicative of his straightened circumstances and erratic mental state, Hess can’t entirely counter the tedium of this experience, so rather contrives a moment of jeopardy and weaves the account through the courtship of his crush from yesteryear. Capturing the terror and racing interior monologues of such pursuits are arguably Hess’s true metier, the insecure, second-guessing of oneself in trying to maintain an outward semblance of calm where he truly excels.

Indeed, it’s a wonder he’s not had his own romantic sitcom commissioned yet.

Until 27 August. Today 6pm.