Words by Suzy Romer
When I picked up my ticket for Phoenix from the Flames I was promised (OK… warned about) audience participation, swearing and nudity but the actual show is so much better than the sum of the parts. The glorious gruff superstar is back for his full Edinburgh run for the first time since 2013 and God it is good to see him again.
Many of his classic show highlights are present in their best versions. We enjoy some great songs that simultaneously transport and tantalise us because they are not available to listen again. We feast our eyes on a uniquely inventive stage costume that only Nick Helm could have designed with his own particular combination of mirth and majesty. His props are delightful and the big screen makes everything larger, funnier and more glamorous. As always, Nick’s material deftly balances light and dark, but this time in his bravest and most vulnerable moments, he has replaced his traditional poems with arresting truths about his most recent experiences with depression. Here we really see the skill and experience of a true comedy expert because he can take difficult material and give us the benefit his rich comic observations with some carefully chosen, lightly scattered gems of wisdom.
Nick Helm is one of a few wonderful men in comedy who dare to incorporate genuinely taboo subjects into their material and “find the funny” in a way that works brilliantly. It puts me in mind of Rob Delaney’s autobiography Mother Wife Sister.. (which deals with alcoholism) and Rhod Gilbert’s show The Book of John (which deals with IVF). In the age of debate about whether you can genuinely make jokes about any subject however hard, Nick Helm has started in the right place, with himself. If any of the jokes sound easy, it is because he has chosen to present them that way and there isn’t a lazy quip in sight. His comedy comes from a place of courage, not cowardice and that makes all the difference.
Buy tickets for Nick Helm: Phoenix from the Flames here
5.40pm | Pleasance Dome | Until 24 Aug (not 12)
See our original recommendation for Nick Helm here