I’ve always held a candle for Dan Antopolski. Being one of the few people who, apparently, seems to have seen the BBC’s Red Dwarf-ish early 00s cult sci-fi comedy show Hyperdrive, of which Antopolski (alongside other future stars such as Nick Frost, Miranda Hart and Kevin Eldon) was one of the stars, I made a beeline for Antopolski at my very first Fringe nearly nine years ago. Back then, he was a giant bundle of energy, replete with witticism, verbosity and a healthy balance of absurdity and one-liners. This time, after being away for a few years, he returns with all the above intact but bearing a world-weary disposition that suits him and makes for one of the strangest and most moving stand-up gigs I’ve ever seen.
He begins the set with acknowledgement of Studio Five’s sweatbox atmosphere, in which he’s performing and, in many ways, the confines of this room, clearly designed for seminars rather than stand-up, make the physically-imposing, twinkly-eyed Antopolski appear like a caged tiger. Indeed, it felt extremely intimate throughout, with Antopolski keeping audience interaction to a minimum, save for some entertaining flirtation with a man in the front row and self-conscious acknowledgement of the minimal claps and audible groans his deliberately cringe inducing one-liners received.
A giant bundle of energy.
Antopolski is at his absolute best when telling a story and punctuating it with a turn-of-phrase which will stay in your head for days. Choice morsels here included the explanation that he is now protective of his two children in the way he used to guard his genitalia, explaining that ‘there’s two of them, I play with them and I prefer one to the other’. Then there’s the casual, throwaway moments which are priceless, such as his description of the pros of having kids being that ‘it’s nice to meet new people’. He also eloquently describes every man’s struggle with the British sea, perfectly terming it ‘penis point’, which provided one of the show’s biggest laughs.
However, what made this show most memorable was the absence of laughter during its final act, when Antopolski spoke very movingly about the loss of his mother in 2015. He eloquently described the frustrations we all face with parents as we grow older and how, through her illness, they spent more time together before she passed away, and recaptured the bond of his younger years. At one point, Antopolski almost looked as if we was about to break down in tears. It was such an unexpected, yet moving moment, that I was caught by surprise, as the entire mood of both performer and audience shifted. He ended the show in low-key fashion, before stepping forward towards the mic and telling us how grateful he was to have spoken to us this evening, but with a genuine authenticity and truth that you often don’t believe when performers say something like this.
I unreservedly recommend Antopolski’s show if you like your stand-up eccentric, wordy and with a sting in the tail.
Running: Assembly George Square Studios – Five, 2nd – 27th August, 21:15
Image: The Reading Lists