FRINGE REVIEW – Des Bishop: My Dad Was Nearly James Bond


7-29 Aug (not 16, 23), 2005 (2105)    @ Assembly George Street

By Danielle Farrow

Des Bishop’s show is a gift. It is about giving, and what people – in particular parents – give up in order to provide for and give properly to their children, and then the child’s longing to give back – and it is worth waiting for.
After a 20 minute delay past the show’s start time, there was a certain irony in entering the auditorium to the strains of ‘We have all the time in the world’ – an irony that really punched in when Des began his set focusing on types of cancer and the affect of small cell lung cancer on his father’s time. This use of the unexpected and harsh made funny and rewarding was very much part of the show’s journey. The audience was driven through tales of note from Des’ life and relations with his parents (mother Eileen included, though the focus was on Mike Bishop, who was indeed nearly James Bond) and we were catapulted through past teenage rebellion, parental coils and “one day you’ll understand” alongside present realities of facing terminal illness as a family – and the humour still to be found in that.
At one point, though, it felt as if the audience was under assault. This was not caused by content or any attempt to shock us or bludgeon us with the painful subject of death and imminent loss, which was very lightly and skillfully handled to poignant effect. Rather, while recounting some of the stories about himself, for a while Bishop was simply yelling. This deadened variation in his voice and response in his audience, and it was a noticeable relief when he relaxed and returned the mic to a reasonable distance from his mouth. If this was a fully conscious style of delivery, it deserves re-thinking, as his material is worthy of the far finer story-telling he evinced in the rest of the set. For Des Bishop gave truth and even wisdom when he ‘told it like it is’ on matters of familial, social and sexual interaction. He just managed to avoid pushing the Irish (/Celtic) button too much – after all there were a lot of Irish fans present – and he happily shared intimate details which were absurd, hilarious and incredibly moving.
‘Des Bishop: My Dad was nearly James Bond’ uses stand-up comedy to lance wounds and possibly even heal them. He attacks the attachment of hope to fantasy and urges us to “make reality fantastic” instead. Where James Bond is a figure beyond reach (and belief!), Des’ Dad is someone real, someone to whom we can relate, and someone well worth knowing about. That we joyfully get to know something of him is Des Bishop’s very fine gift to his father and to us.

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