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Now is Not the Time for Politics
The Sheephaven Bay
9th August 2013

★★★☆☆

Niall O'Sullivan

Photography supplied by Niall O'Sullivan

Poetry and politics - both can seem pretty heavy going on their own, so when billed together, frankly, they sound like the makings of one of "those" deeply intellectual hobby horse shows for culture bores. However, Niall O'Sullivan's new one-man show Now is Not the Time for Politics can better described as an affable Irish bloke down the pub having a chat about his baby daughter. Doesn't have quite the same hook, does it? But it's infinitely more accurate, and more appealing to the casual walk-up.

In the show, O'Sullivan doesn't formally introduce any of his poetry, rather he lets it flow into his address to the audience, the narrative ramblings mixing in with each heartfelt poem. His words are melodic, rhythmic - more like spoken word or beat poem than traditional poetry. He writes in very natural pauses, delivers lines with gusto - it's not a straight-laced recital by any means.

As for the political bent, well, O'Sullivan does have a dig at (justifiably) popular targets Hunt, Cameron and Clarkson, and he does bring up that recession everyone keeps talking about. But the meat of the show is about his journey into fatherhood, from that first pregnancy test, to taking his daughter home and settling into his new role. The political references are incidental.

O'Sullivan's writings come across as honest, and very personal. Often when people talk about their own lives - regardless of the medium they use - they gloss over the detail, or substitute real people and places to anonymise the experiences. O'Sullivan comes across as a man with nothing to hide, whatever he talks about has been based on an incident in his own life, he's hesitant to lose any of the emotion by redacting the truth. This attitude is evident from the setup - he stands in front of a tiny stage in a nondescript dark grey three piece - no props, no outrageous outfit, no sound effects, just one man and a microphone.

Over the course of the 45 minute show, O'Sullivan occasionally stumbles over a word - fussy, yes, but we're critics, we're meant to nitpick - but there's a clear confidence. His writing is captivating, it's tight - the material is worth listening to and he knows it. O'Sullivan has an endearing charm, throwing in a joke or two at carefully timed intervals to keep the audience on side, and the atmosphere light.

Of course - and from the twinkle in his eye, we should expect nothing less - this is a complete wrong-footing, he shifts the tone in the final third, speaking of his love for his daughter and commenting on the world in which she will grow up. New parents can - and do - often alienate themselves from the child free, but nothing O'Sullivan says makes us want to tune out.

Now Is Not The Time For Politics isn't a groundbreaking show, but it's undeniably an enjoyable one, which has a far wider audience than the posters may suggest. If you like your observational comedy, do give O'Sullivan a whirl, he has a very relaxed, accessible style which bridges that vast gap between stand-up and poetry.

Now is Not the Time for Politics opened on 8th August and runs until 11th August 2013, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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