We first encountered Richard Purnell with Gary from Leeds at Camden Fringe 2010. This year, Purnell's branched out on his own presenting his new one man show, 'Boobs, Work and Me' but with a little support from his friends.
Paul Cree, Gary from Leeds and Sean Mahoney tag-team performance spots in the warm-up slot, in a ramshackle but endearing way.
Cree begins with his story, how the sixth child of seven in the suburbs found a voice and identity, discovered rhythm through drumsticks and passion through jungle. He's an engaging storyteller, confident and comfortable in his stage skin, delivering poetry punctuated by the unexpected rhymes of rap. Under-achievement may be his thing, but he won't have to worry about that for much longer.
Food and death are Gary's specialties and despite his promise to speak 'miserable words into a microphone' he's got a mischievous energy matching historical warriors with snackfood and pondering death by peanut. Acid enthusiasm bursts out as he derides the proud breeders and threatens to lick a baby. Contempt and joy find strange union in Gary's performance.
Sean Mahoney temporarily floors us with a beautiful young-love-lost poem addressed to the girl now gone, trying to speak out his feelings - 'hear what I'm saying / I'm not saying it right'. He bares his soul with an understated and effortlessly natural delivery. Later, he switches key with a giggle, instructing us on the suavity of egg on pizza and where to get the best value chicken in London. He finishes enacting a micro-play about an inappropriate dad. Somehow, it works.
Richard Purnell loves boobs. He also hates them. They killed his sister. But now he works for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and is surrounded by them, in a pink office full of women. Boob puns slot in smoothly as he tells us of the extraordinary misguided infant art project, marvels at the plight of Lacey Banghard and her enormous page 3 accessories and climaxes in a near fatal meeting with vertiginous charity celebrity, Naomi Campbell. He skewers his position as lone man in a sea of oestrogen, and not the type to get the ladies cracking open the Diet Coke.
Mixing confessional with comedy set piece and clowning, Richard ties it all together with Essex charm and peppers it with poetry. Him and his friends blur the lines between spoken word, performance poetry and stand-up comedy, putting verbal elegance into bad jokes, alliteration into narration and giving rhythm to the rant. The whole show is raw and rough round the edges, but the talent is charming and real.
Richard Purnell and Friends are at the Hen and Chickens, Highbury Corner until Saturday, 7.30pm. Tickets £10.