This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
Rarely does a comedian appear so endearingly sweet whilst simultaneously displaying such quick wit and natural flair for comedy as Steve Bugeja.
With his shy smile, neat button-down shirt and chirpy squeak of a voice, Bugeja is simply adorable. Day Release, his hour-long set, however, arranged as one story with many digressions, is also a masterclass in comedic construction.
Bugeja’s comedy is centred on himself, and his self-effacing style is obvious from the start as he shows the audience a blown-up copy of his first Facebook profile picture. So begins the tale that forms the central thread of his show. Bugeja takes the audience back to his early teens, and from there follows the story of his unrequited love for best friend Amy, from their first (and only) kiss in his Peugeot 206 to the day of her wedding to ‘villain of the piece’ Rick, when he had to ferry her criminal father from prison to the ceremony.
Bugeja takes us on this journey in an engaging, enjoyably natural manner, frequently pausing to delve down side-alleys and by-roads into other areas of his past, but never allows the pace to slacken enough for the audience’s attention to wander. His command over his own material is an absolute joy to behold.
Much of Bugeja’s comedy is born of an ability to laugh at himself and in particular at his own crippling anxiety . “I just don’t do things that scare me”, he confesses, referring to his fear of awkward and embarrassing social situations. Yet he is also a master of the not-so-subtle aside, muttering insults and confessions under his breath to much amusement. “Fuck off, arsehole”, he frequently mumbles after mentioning love-rival Rick.
For the most part, Bugeja’s interaction with his audience is faultless, if not as sharp as his rehearsed material; his comments and rejoinders are never particularly witty. He is undoubtedly strongest when in the midst of his own life, providing the audience with needless specifics in a faux-sincere fashion as he relates episodes from his past.
But in truth, any criticism is nit-picking in the extreme. Last year, Bugeja hosted Pleasance’s brilliant comedy showcase The Comedy Zone, after winning the prestigious BBC Radio New Comedy Award in December 2013. Day Release is his debut solo show and it is an undoubtedly triumphant progression, the next step for a comedian clearly destined for greatness.