Francis Jones witnesses the paranoid outpourings of NI's most surreal comic
The eyes jitterbug left to right, the hands fidget with the microphone stand, Kevin McAleer, comedic bard of Tyrone, seems on edge. With good cause too.
Postmen, policemen and meringue-hoarding restauranteurs, they’re all out to get him, or so McAleer believes. Fuelled by insane logic, he spends 90 minutes painting himself into a padded, paranoiac corner.
Be it a simple trip to the restaurant - 'Do you have a reservation?', 'Several, but I’ve got to eat' - to the daily postal delivery, a Save The Children missive mistaken for a ransom request, McAleer tilts fearlessly against the windmills that populate his fevered mindscape, determined to 'nip in the bud' plot and plotters alike.
His delivery is hangover dry, the voice rarely rising above a pained whisper. Other comedians stomp about the stage, seeking to impose themselves through sheer physicality. McAleer, however, has no need for such theatrics. His finely crafted material makes a forceful enough impression on its own.
Simultaneously delusional and innocent abroad, McAleer takes the everyday, turns it upside down and gives it a good shake. He rambles along a path of word association, wilfully bad punnery and witty bon mots to construct a convincing and meticulously plotted narrative.
And, as the show progresses, the audience become ever more immersed in the world of his fuse-blown alter-ego, able to tap into his skew-whiff mindset.
Sadly, however, and despite the precaution of wearing a tin-foil wrapped biking helmet at all times, our hero falls into the clutches of the conspirators. Hilariously confused to the last, he mistakes the mental hospital for a hotel and the doctor for a flirtatious hotel manager. 'He invited me into his office, told me I’d got a cute psychosis.'
Pursued by his paranoia, McAleer prepares to flee the stage. 'In a few minutes, thirty fellas are gonna come bursting in here looking for me, postmen and the like, tell ‘em you never saw me.' Sorry to break that promise, I saw that McAleer fella alright and can testify that he’s certifiably hilarious.