Saturday, 27 July 2019
COMEDY REVIEW: I, Tom Mayhew - The King's Arms Theatre, Salford
For my return to GM Fringe, it is was time to also return to Salford’s Kings Arms, this time for Comedy. ‘I, Tom Mayhew’ - I guess loosely following the influence of the title of job-centre focused system statistic biopic, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ - follows Watford-based Tom’s journey from school life, childhood, jobs, sexuality (briefly) and focuses on the three-year period that he had to attend the Job Centre (Plus) to sign on for his ‘survival money’, referred to as a paradoxical ‘benefit’.
Twenty-seven year old Tom lives with his parents but did pursue university, attempting to ‘claim’ benefits, now Universal Credit, either side of his studies. He worked for a supermarket brand which he ironically states was really boring and not worth mentioning in the show, as he does multiple times, as well as what his careers advisor considered the ideal job for an acne-ridden eighteen year old...a cosmetics assistant at Boots (now where his mother works). His energy is admirable and his bubbly manner of reeling off gag after gag and anecdote after experience, it is clear that this 2018 BBC New Comedy Award Semi-Finalist loves what he does and has a passion for entertaining others through witty wonderings and happenings throughout his life. A Christian, his mother claims her praying to the almighty god is what has helped her son’s success - well, I guess he will "have to co-credit Jesus with all of his (sic) works".
As he prepares for his stint at the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival next week/month, Tom’s charisma shines as he recites jokes about the process and path through the poorly organised and badly customer service assessed Job Centre programme: from getting his surname wrong; to forgetting his name completely; and reducing your benefits allowance based on the mere pence increase that you or your parents earn, this is one of the many relatable aspects of his material, as well as the poignant fact that his cancer-sufferer father, who is also having to endure the system, after working since the age 14, is his inspiration and the person, along with his mother, that he wants to provide a better life for - something that his father believed was his own mission for his son. Hearing how he talks about his father in such a happy way is infectious.
Comparing the value of his A-Level qualification to that of a Pokémon card and the price increase of a Freddo as faster than the rate of inflation, he vows that he always dreamed of becoming what he has achieved now - not poor - a full-time comedian. With innovative reference to current affairs and politics, right to the day, he also reflects on the surprising help of his local Tory MP who helped him get his benefits, free from sanctions. A clever comparison between the expectation of a ‘benefit’ (maybe a free plane) and what you actually get is that of a 'Friend With Benefits' who only really wishes you a happy birthday on Facebook.
His sincere and heartfelt yet frank approach is refreshing, as is his correlation of the class system impacting on your degree of confidence (which no-one reports) and that paths you will lead, after all, have you ever seen a posh drug dealer? Interestingly he also mentions the stereotype of Hoodie-wearers but E.T wore one and all he did was steal a bike and rode past the moon. And things have to be bad when you get posture advice from a hypothetical mugger telling you to prevent being taken advantage of. After all, they do say that “money doesn’t buy happiness” but it does...antidepressants.
Growing up queer (bisexual) was an experience too, especially when the Pastor who preached that gays would burn in hell, entered a same-sex relationship with a man. Apparently there is an age limit to being poor and coping with poor mental health when people say “what have you got to be worried about, you're only young” but it is clear that Tom shouldn’t have to worry, not least about entertaining people as it comes so naturally.
We wish him all the best of luck in Edinburgh and look forward to welcoming him back up North soon. Perhaps back to the derelict-design decor of the pub's 'Vaults', down a narrow staircase, behind an unmarked door, past beer barrels.
Reviewer - John Kristof
on - 25/7/19