by Laura Ferguson
Gay Icons opens with a characteristically diva moment when it is announced that tonight’s special LGBTQIA+ guest star has. . . cancelled. Not to worry though, as Malcolm and Thornton seem only too eager to have more stage time. The dramatized air continues as neither are willing to concede they aren’t the headliner and so flip a coin to determine their sequence of appearance.
Through this process, 2017 Billy T nominee James Malcolm is our first act, airing his comedic laundry in a churning of sexual Disney escapades, bonding with a peer who happens to be your mum’s boyfriend and how Malcolm’s lack of an attention span leaves these overtures on a spin cycle to become effete. I particularly love Malcolm’s seeming delicacy, his cupped hand gestures flowing as if in water and then, bam! A barrage of filth comes pouring from his lips. Every laugh we elicit is meaningfully addressed by Malcolm with a “Thank you” and I giggle furtively, feeling complicit in the next dirty story from my previous mirthful approval.
Perhaps the lack of the guest star has disconcerted the timing of this show, but there is a slightly underwhelming end to Malcolm’s set before Neil Thornton replaces him. I felt like Malcolm had been cut short a bit, leaving us on a joke that would probably have been a callback in a later one, but as enjoyable as his set was I can’t begrudge the jarring overly much.
Neil Thornton’s wild, thrashing verbal tirading energy is our second half of the night. At once intelligent, observant and quick-witted, Thornton couches his comedy in a barking anger I find immensely entertaining. As he often directs this anger at himself and at those phobic of a gay presence in the world, we are onboard with his rants. So often, I’m not only laughing but nodding my head in agreement as Thornton makes his way through gay marriage, names of LGBT bars, Grindr and the Labour party.
Gay Icons may have lost one of its icons tonight, but I am none the worse for it. In fact, I loved being able to hear even more new material from these two comedians. Malcolm and Thornton turned Ivy lively with many a hoot, roar and tinkle of laughter to be found, depending on your preference that is.
Gay Icons and other shows of the Fringe festival can be found here.