Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Ain't Afraid of No Ghost - review

Written by: Daisy Thurston-Gent

Etcetera Theatre, London

From the creator of Geekatorium comes a brand new solo comedy show from spook-seeker Paul Gannon. An avid Ghostbusters fan from a young age, Gannon recites a series of endearing stories documenting his journey from child fanatic to full blown adult geek in Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost. In a purely autobiographical performance, Gannon is successful in holding the attention of his audience (ghost believing or not) through charming tales of mishap and fright in his one-man act. 

As he makes his way to this years Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Gannon has compiled a multi-disciplined show making use of his talents as a stand-up and story-teller to present humorous anecdotes of his ghost-hunting experiences. He includes stories of rumbled psychics, creepy accounts of accidental live-recorded evidence and, naturally, a few misinterpreted conclusions of simply bumping night-vision goggles with other estranged enthusiasts in the dark underground pits that a committed ghost-hunter like Gannon must frequently find himself in. Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost contains an interesting presentation format, including a slide show of supposedly haunted locations around the UK, some of which are in close proximity with London, designed to spark the interest of a fan that perhaps hasn’t realised their full fascination with the art of ghost hunting. As Gannon mentions, TV sensations such as the reality documentary Most Haunted, albeit their international popularity, have enabled a certain stigma surrounding the paranormal, rendering it spoof-worthy and a prime target for public mockery. Gannon plainly announces how ridiculous many of these ‘reality’ shows are but then honestly shrugs his shoulders underneath his personalised boiler suit and admits “but I love them anyway!” It is this personal awareness that carries the show, providing a comforting atmosphere to laugh at your own geeky habits and admit to a room full of people: Yes, I am a nerd about this.

Although his tales are interesting enough, the comedian does not appear to trust their outcomes – usually skimming over the important punch lines (crafted out of slick and frequent one-liners), causing some crucial comic moments to be lost in a fumbled transition between stories. Furthermore, a majority of the show’s humour is grounded on the audience having an equal fascination, or at least common interest, in the subject matter of Ghost geekiness, and unfortunately many of his jokes and quips rely heavily on popular references to television’s Most Haunted, Psychic & Science and the Ghostbusters feature itself, ultimately rendering a lot of the material redundant and, ironically, alienating to those who are unfamiliar.  

Gannon’s stage makes use of a projector screen to display video clips and sound-bites, as well as a prop-bench to rest his numerous cherished ghost-hunting related items, many of which, he is proud to tell us, are collectible novelties. For the most part, the filmic additions complimented the show, especially a heart-warming video at the end of Gannon visiting the famous fire station in New York from the Ghostbusters film, claiming it to be his ‘Mecca’. This uniting moment between Gannon and his audience came a little too late in the performance however; although the audience are on his side, they remain slightly restless throughout.

The vast amount of material this comedian has collected over the past two years of fulfilling his dreams as a thrill-seeking, ghoul chasing ‘buster is far too much for the allotted 50 minutes and there were sections (including an anticipated co-written song with Sigourney Weaver) which were missed due to timings. Nevertheless the audience were engaged throughout the show, and Gannon’s friendly, open mannerisms held the room for a highly personal and pleasantly original comedy show. 

This production was part of the PNPA festival which runs throughout January. 

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