“There felt like a good chance that I was about to miss Glenn Wool when I turned up at the Underbelly box office as I repeated the words, ‘Glenn Wool’ to be answered with ‘umming’ and ‘arring’ leaving me thinking I’d been wearing my dyslexic specs again and got the wrong venue (I am dyslexic). Only to check that I was right and said the words ‘Wools Gold’ only for the box office assistant to finally go, ‘Oh yeah’.”
OK, so Aitken is not the most engaging storyteller. But I don’t want to be a TOTAL cock to Aitken because he seems quite nice. Also, the reviews of the kind Aitkin writes are in the form of a blog, tacked onto the side of shortcom.co.uk, the comedy short film site.
And Aitken suffers from depression, something he tells us about at length on the site. At least, we assume Aitken wrote it since he’s the site’s big cheese. Is this the natural end point of too-confessional standup? That it has started to infect the reviews, too? I sensed it earlier in the Fringe when Kate Copstick told us that a lot of her friends had died of AIDS. Is this the Fringe of the vulnerable, flawed, human reviewer? Are we to see through the review to the person, and finally know their back story? Are we to understand and so, inevitably, to forgive? Is this the end of the Fringe as we know it?
Well, fortunately for all of us we don’t have to dwell too long on Aitken the person, because Aitken the reviewer is actually quite sound once you ignore all the flannel.
His prose is full of nice little phrases, such as “He seems rather perturbed by … two particular individuals whereby the only doors they should have been let through were the back of a police van”; “he demonstrates how he is a black belt in delivery”; “Jason [Cook] manages to address his illness by almost wrapping [it] in Christmas lights.”
Unfortunately Aitken goes way over the top at times, resulting in some sentences that look like a bomb has gone off on a bus packed with metaphors: “…with his stoner drawl, he can issue the dark material with a pistol silencer by destroying most religious ideologies with a whimsical wand that is somewhat free from aggression but atomically explosive with poignancy”. Good luck sticking that on your poster Mr Wool.
And yet we don’t doubt that Aitken is a good guy with acute observations and (we assume) a solid sense of purpose in running shortcom.co.uk. He is generous with both stars and praise. We can only wonder if reviewing, which engages with so many people on such a personal level, is where he ought to be when, by his own admission, Aitken is not entirely sure where he is.
He’s like a magistrate who, before pronouncing his verdict, tells the court: “Bear in mind that I am dyslexic and depressed and I sometimes get a bit confused. Guilty!”
But then, if the human and humane reviewer is this year’s thing, I really want to cheer that bandwagon along.