Edinburgh review: Jay Foreman – We’re Living in the Future
Jay Foreman has started to feel quite old recently, not least of all, when he found out his nephew hadn’t even heard of tape cassettes or Nirvana. Asking his Twitter followers whether they had been struck by any similar realisations, he receives some amusing (and even more disquieting) responses. Getting the audience to read out the best tweets, he intersperses them with whimsical songs and musings on growing old and the culture of his youth.
With a natural and animated stage manner, Foreman exudes plenty of geeky charm. He builds up a good rapport with the audience by getting them involved with the subject, to the point where a bloke next me is willfully shouting “Yeah!” to every question he puts to the floor. Some of the Twitter responses he gets are genuinely disturbing (for me at least), like the fact that “kids who grew up with the Teletubbies are now making kids TV themselves” and one that hits him hard in particular: “by the time the Beatles were my age (26) they’d already made St Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
However, unlike last year’s debut show, there just isn’t a strong enough body of material to sustain the hour. A couple of songs are musically sound but have lyrics which either feel a little unfinished or lack comedic punch. In some cases, a self-effacing follow-up comment can win you over, like with the short number about eating Haribo sweets in bed, which he concedes is “a good example of writing yourself into a corner.” Yet a lot of the time, either a lacklustre song will be followed by an amusing quip, or vice versa, causing the humour levels to jump erratically.
The second half is undoubtedly stronger than the first, as some darker songs emerge out of nowhere and infuse the audience with half-horrified, half-delighted surprise. There’s one of last year’s numbers ‘John Lennon’, about how mediocre the Beatles singer would be if he were still alive and a song about a child dying in a fire backed by the jaunty Super Mario Brothers theme. His best tracks tend to either fuse both the light and dark sides of his nature in an inventively comical way or have some powerful melancholic substance to them. In melodic song, he envisages his mental and physical decay at the age of 83. There’s little humour there but unlike some of the sillier numbers, it’s haunts you long after he’s finished singing.
A lot of references will only really appeal to Foreman’s generation (remember Microsoft Encarta before we had Wikipedia?) but the premise of the show, the fear of getting older, is something most members of the audience can connect with (and there’s an Angry Birds tune for the kids who aren’t there yet). The main problem here is consistency; but bearing in mind that this is his “difficult second show”, I’m in no doubt this will come.
Jay Foreman: We’re Living in the Future is at the Underbelly Cowgate from 4th-28th August at 2:30pm.