Review by Daz Gale
It was a return visit to the Duke of York’s Theatre for me this week. If you follow me on social media (or read the Metro newspaper) you may be aware what happened following my last trip there. If not, let’s just say my The Pillowman review took on a life of its own. It was a very different show that brought me back this time, with Nick Mohammed moving his show ‘The very best and worst of Mr Swallow’ there for a week before Vanya takes over. Having missed the show last time it was in the West End in March, I was elated to get a second chance to catch this show – but would it be worth the wait, and more importantly, would I think it was undoubtedly the best show I had seen at the Duke of York’s Theatre this year?
Nick Mohammed may be most familiar to many people from his role in the TV series Ted Lasso. For others, it’s his performance as Mr Swallow which has seen him on TV shows and stage for the past decade with memorable appearances on programmes such as 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. For his latest show, Nick has brought a greatest hits package, touring the UK with his critically acclaimed show. This show might be quite different to anyone who knows Nick only from Ted Lasso, with a brilliant introduction ingeniously referring to it as “less Apple TV, more Apple crumble”.
A show dedicated to two themes – numbers and memory, may not seem like the most thrilling or funny premise to many people, but Nick Mohammed has crafted a carefully balanced show that packs a lot of humour in with a surprising amount of intelligence. It’s hard not to be impressed at his amazing memory skills and satisfying tricks involving numbers (no spoilers) which at times felt like something you’d see at a Derren Brown show instead. Deceptively more than just a comedy show, the planning and execution of this well-crafted show was incredibly impressive.
However, if you came to this show for a good laugh, there was no shortage of them. Meticulously scripted with the odd ad-lib, Mr Swallow is an exquisite comic creation with the flawless ability to tell a story with a killer punchline all the while making it even more funnier thanks to the delivery and characterisation in the storytelling. Comic highlights included a fittingly overlong but brilliantly bonkers dissection of Les Miserables and, of course, his now infamous Jurassic Park song. A special mention must also go to Mr Swallow’s fantastic opener Tessa Coates who suitably warmed the audience up (not that we needed much on a blistering hot day) with some impeccable stories of her own and a knack for great comic timing.
Mr Swallow is a fantastic creation with his seemingly innocent façade turning into exaggerated mock-anger. Instantly loveable and always captivating to watch, Nick Mohammed shows a real knack for writing, performing and engaging with the audience as well as bundles of energy, continuously performing the entire show on roller skates. The sometimes surprising nature of the content as well as the impressive nature of the setups led to a show that was inexplicably high on intelligence… despite being ridiculously stupid at times.
The Very Best and Worst of Mr Swallow is a fantastic show for anyone who loves a good laugh at the theatre. Whether you are familiar with the character or Nick Mohammed, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this madcap, satisfyingly silly show. A fantastic character created by a phenomenally talented performer, there wasn’t much of “the worst” to be found here. Instead, we were treated to a set that featured hit after hit after hit. Who knew maths could be so fun?
The Very Best and Worst of Mr Swallow plays at the Duke of York’s Theatre until Saturday 9th September. Tickets from berksnest.com/nick.
Photos by Corinne Cumming