In terms of comedy that’s organised around a theme, Ryan Walker’s Man Up! takes a particularly personal approach. His show is a tale of past woes that have come back to haunt him, thanks to his upcoming ten-year high school reunion and the unpleasant memories this evokes.

Ultimately this is a show about bullying, and in that regard there’s a fairly strong message here. The crux of the story lies in betrayal by a mate over a girl many years ago (though not in the way you might think), an experience that haunts Walker and his relationship with women to this day.

The story takes many twists and turns, particularly as Walker often tells the audience the scenario as he wished it had happened, before acknowledging that, in reality, it wasn’t nearly that cool. This is funny early on, but given that the show relies on narrative, it tended to interrupt my focus on and interest in the actual story.

The many sex-related jokes didn’t always work – some were funny but others were merely awkward. The gutter humour wasn’t unexpected however – it’s probably inevitable that a show focussing on adolescent boys is going to mention masturbating on a regular basis.

In the end, I did feel a bit sorry for the Ryan Walker we see on stage, and that’s not quite how one wants to feel at the end of a comedy show. It’s ironic that the show is partly about self-esteem in the wake of bullying, yet one gets the feeling that in this case, the battle is ongoing. Walker has some good material here, but a snappier delivery and a stronger narrative arc would liven it up.

Ryan Walker – Man Up! is on at Fad Gallery, Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm until April 21.

Suzannah Marshall Macbeth blogs over at equineocean.

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