Cartwheeling Comedy From Dane Baptiste

By Ben Venables Last edited 35 months ago
Cartwheeling Comedy From Dane Baptiste ★★★★☆ 4

Dane Baptiste. Photo by Steve Ullathorne‏.

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

Dane Baptiste is an outsider, or so he says.

His parents migrated to the UK from relatively obscure Caribbean islands but for a man born and raised in South East London, now in his early thirties, surely that claim needs justification? Then again, Baptiste's theme seems designed to lure us in one direction, before he cartwheels off in another (sometimes literally).

His apparent "outsider" status stems from growing up in a stable, two parent, protective family and his jealousy of the Reebok Pumps his friends were "rewarded" with by their ashamed alcoholic parents. Though this kind of biographical route is common for a debut show, Baptiste's unflattering caricature of himself as an envious, embarrassed, petulant teen — locked in a rivalry with his twin sister — tunes into an adolescent emotional spectrum that everyone surely knows.

Perhaps not so much an outsider then as a consummate host who brings people in. At last year's Edinburgh Fringe — for which this show earned Baptiste a nomination for best newcomer — he was one of only seven black comedians performing in the city. But the audience in the Soho Theatre is quick to comprehend what this means, and words such as multicultural or diverse just don't cut it.

"Fuck off, Dane," says one lady under her breath. As 'fuck offs' go it's bizarrely affectionate. Like someone shouting not to be tickled. Not that her attempt to ward off the coming visceral laughter stops her being almost propelled off her chair.

There are many moments like this, when a routine that seems a tad familiar takes off into a flight of fancy and we see a soaring talent before us. One highlight is when he re-enacts how his father compares the levels of racism he and his son have experienced. The insults of a surly nightclub bouncer for example have Baptiste hollering insurrectionary protest, yet the resulting speech is less-than-stirring to Baptiste Snr. He only hears it in pampered 'oh Papa, woe is me' tones.

Though the quality of the show is uneven and some callbacks have diminishing returns, the delivery's more flamboyant turns make Baptiste highly watchable. It might not be the very best show to transfer from Edinburgh to London, but it is one of the most interesting. Stay with Baptiste, there's ample evidence here that he deserved that best newcomer nomination.

Dane Baptiste: Citizen Dane runs at Soho Theate until 31 January. It starts at 7pm. Tickets are £12.50 (£10). Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 27 January 2015