This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
The particular beauty of a variety show is that should one act fail to impress, it is only moments before another takes its place. One might think that with Jody Kamali’s One Man Variety Show then, that the performance’s concept (one man taking on every act, including the host) would inevitably forfeit this advantage. When coupled with the show’s parodic nature, however, Kamali’s energy and versatility ensure that this never becomes an issue.
Kamali slips, if not effortlessly, then at least entertainingly ineptly between a plethora of characters, including endearingly accented host Frank Valentine, a hilariously serious ‘Man of Mystery’, a opera singer who occasionally slips into pumping pop class classics and a wise-man from the Asian subcontinent whose nipples have healing powers. Every act is a caricature of the ‘real thing’; hence the ‘Man of Mystery’ affects an air of ethereal mystique whilst juggling Sainsbury’s carrier bags, and the opera singer belts out five seconds of Madonna in the middle of his solo.
Audience interaction, as would be expected, is prominent throughout and is largely executed well. Particularly funny moments include the Healer’s attempt to ‘cure’ a couple by placing their hands on his bare nipples and forcing them to gently massage them and a moment when the ‘Man of Mystery’ tries to read a spectator’s mind and confesses that ‘there is absolutely nothing there’. There is perhaps a slight lack of wit in Kamali’s constant patter, but his easy-going attitude ensures this never translates into discomfort.
Aesthetically, Jody Kamali’s One Man Variety Show has a certain shabby charm. Donning a mauve jacket splitting at the seams and changing in a scruffy red cubicle at the rear of the stage, there is a definite air of wasted elegance that if not intentional, is certainly appropriate. The cheapness of Kamali’s props is similarly apt, emphasising the show’s parody suitably.
For such a daringly original concept, there are actually very few moments in which the audience’s attention wavers. An act in which Kamali dresses as a banknote, dons a Trilby and plays with toy sharks is downright confusing and one in which he plays the part of his own father and dances to Turkish music is regrettably ill-judged. On the whole, however, Kamali amuses and entertains; the majority of his characters are well-conceived and his inherent charm is particularly winning.