Not everyone has an intriguing story of a murdered relative buried in their family history. And very few, one imagines, could turn that story into such an entertainingly whimsical one-man show as Daniel Benoliel’s Waiting Like a Man.
Benoliel takes as his starting point the death of his father, among whose effects he finds a cryptic paragraph about a murder in a Manchester factory. After a little research (his encounters with archives and archive-dwellers are wittily recounted), he discovers that the murdered man was his great-grandfather, the cue for him to delve more deeply into his family history. Meanwhile, his own wife falls pregnant, causing him to view his investigations through the prism of his impending fatherhood.
All of this is lightly handled by Benoliel, a polished performer who moves smoothly between self-deprecating humour and caricatured set pieces (his telling of the murder in the style of a bedtime story for a friend’s children was a particular favourite), whilst adept at engaging with the audience in the intimate venue. The weightier elements of the performance are swiftly undercut with irony or quips, and he is careful to avoid allowing his musings on his impending fatherhood to lapse into cliché or cloying sentimentality.
His jokes, however, do not always hit the mark (the string of gags about the Aliens Act, for example, are decidedly lame) and the balance of the show is tilted a little too far in favour of cheap laughs to the detriment of any real depth. The style of the show is not dissimilar to a Daniel Kitson monologue (such as 66a Church Road), but it does not quite achieve Kitson’s expert blend of the heartfelt and the humorous.
Nonetheless, the production is a very neat one, simple in its set but carefully choreographed, with Benoliel’s video extracts and flights of fancy held together well by Tom Cornford’s tight direction. Christopher Nairne’s inventive lighting – with some very tight cues – is also worthy of mention.
In short, an enjoyable and engaging evening, though one feels Benoliel has even more to offer.
- Tom Cameron