John Moloney’s Butterflies With Stretchmarks is a curious show – a quiet hour of Edinburgh leftovers (surely one of the last remaining gigs still dining out on 2010’s material) from a circuit veteran in the midst of Leicester Square that completely eschews any of the modern comic tropes. There are no props, no characters, and none of the mad, steam-around-the-stage energy harnessed by younger comedians. Moloney’s schtick is to perch loftily on a high-stool and deliver meticulously paced jokes about vets, Germans and the youth of today to an enraptured audience.
It takes a certain kind of comedian – one with brass balls, presumably – to enthral a room so completely by barely whispering slowly into a microphone, but it’s a trick Moloney has experience of pulling off. A former German teacher, Moloney’s love of language is woven throughout his material, and some of the best lines are linguistic word play (our favourite, speculating as to the Queen Mother’s last few years, spent “sitting around laying aristocratic cables”) while musing on the rigours of modern life.
It’s the pacing, though, that marks Moloney out and simultaneously infuriates. Slow and deliberate, occasionally to the point of agonising, it doesn’t feel like 30 minutes material padded out with pauses to an hour – but waiting an eternity for those odd gags that fall short of the mark makes the audience feel doubly cheated. Invest a little patience and Butterflies With Stretchmarks is a gem; if you’re an ADHD-riddled youth, it’s probably not ideal.
15—19th March, 7.30pm at Leicester Square Theatre, W1, £10-12