Neil Hickey seems like a genuinely nice guy with a passion for being as true to himself as possible in front of his audiences.
Once you delve into his chequered family background, and understand some of the stigma he suffers due to his mother being in a mental health institution, it's clear to see how laudable an aim this is. In fact as a play or storytelling event it would be refreshing to see someone with his honesty, not just about his circumstances but also about the ways in which his mind chooses to deal with them, on stage.
Unfortunately however Hickey doesn't yet have a strong enough comedy persona or solid, funny material to inject enough humour into the tale for a stand-up comedy performance. He fails to put the audience at ease, instead leaving us on edge and anxious as he opens up to us. One too many jokes seem to appear out of nowhere and fall flat rather than being woven seamlessly into the story while the difference between his loud, silly antics and gentle tales is jarring.
Inexplicably he creates a brand new word to shout at the end of jokes in order to 'pretend he's sticking to an overall theme' when, actually, the show's focus on the gap between honesty and escaping from reality, is already doing exactly that perfectly.
This was a very ambitious idea for a show and, while his comedy still needs a lot of development for this to work, being truly vulnerable on stage is quite a feat and Hickey rises to the challenge admirably.
- Lucy Danser
Neil Hickey: Escape Artist continues at the Pleasance Courtyard until 26 August