Liam Williams has one of the best voices in stand-up. In two senses. He has a deeply resonant, Yorkshire tone and he often says something, angry, political and relevant. Following last year’s Foster’s-nominated show, however, this year’s Bonfire Night is a tiny bit disappointing.
The self-styled "sad lad" just seems a little bit too disillusioned for comedy at the moment. Everything makes him angry, from the fact that the Edinburgh Fringe brochure would not allow him to use an emoji for a title to the fact that this country is going to the dogs. The show gets its title from the fact that we seem to be the only country that celebrates a failed revolution rather than a successful one.
He admits that he only really has one joke about Guy Fawkes, but loosely links routines about climate change and homelessness around the theme. There are some lovely sardonic sections here as he talks about the futility of his job. In an echo of Alfie Brown’s comments in his current show, Williams feels guilty that all he is doing to help is standing onstage and talking about things, as if that is really going to change the world.
An interesting development is his use of song. Not quite rapping, not quite performance poetry, he recites a couple of numbers that have a whiff of early John Cooper Clarke about them. They offer a nice counterpoint to the self-flagellating moments when he flies into a rage and punches the ceiling in despair. The scheduling of the gig doesn't help his mood. Every now and again he gets annoyed at the raucous cheers from the Shaggers show taking place next door. How can people have so much fun at a time like this?
Williams is a fine comic and despite his protests he has does have something to say, but this is not really an improvement on last year’s set. A further minor irritation is that he makes a number of references to reviews he has had so far. Does anyone really care apart from other comedians and critics? It gets a laugh because he manages to be arrogant and self-deprecating about his write-ups at the same time, but it is an unnecessary digression when he knows full well that there are more important matters to address. And if anything is going to get him a three star review it is saying that he doesn’t want three star reviews any more.
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