That 80s Show, Patrick Monahan ***

Patrick Monahan Photo: Steve Ullathorne

Patrick Monahan knows how to make his audience feel a part of the fun. Known for his audience interaction and animated storytelling, it is easy to see how his reputation as ‘everyone's mate’ came to be, and why he is a ‘go-to’ for guest appearances on TV. His positive outlook and high energy delivery is almost medicinal and encourages you to escape the realities of the everyday for a more joyous place where ultimately you believe everything will be alright in the end. This year's offering is no exception. This 80s Show is a collection of anecdotes from his childhood, coming to the UK from Iran to grown up in Middlesbrough, touching on instances of racism, merged with stereotypes we can all relate to. A festival favourite, it is clear Monahan knows his audience well. There's a thoughtfulness that goes into establishing rapport in this show whereby he is willing to reveal just enough about his upbringing to encourage the audience to respond to his opening survey without too much reluctance.

From his high energy entrance, instantly placing us in the 1980s through a a smart choice of upbeat music which matches his persona, somehow you're thinking about what life was like back then before the set begins. Monahan’s tales of his youth are at their core very sad, but the combination of a physical approach and the use of accents to establish characters keep these moments buoyant and fluid. Sometimes it's nice to listen to a story which avoids underlying topical pressure.  More serious subjects have just the right mix of poignance and lighthearted jest to keep the audience on side; and later this relaxed atmosphere enables Monahan to select individuals to get involved in the more interactive element of the show more easily. 

If you're looking for a really accessible show, with a genuine warmth of heart, then That 80s Show, and indeed Patrick Monahan, will be right up your street. Additionally, if you've had a long journey up, it's an accessible and comfortable starting point. His charm and charisma go a long way and, as someone with a preference for storytelling, the show sits well with me. Whilst topical, it's never preachy. When touching on the more personal reflections, we are invited to understand, whilst never being asked to empathise…though we do anyhow.. Monahan is all about the rapport and that makes for a relaxed atmosphere in which you don't have to work too hard. 

Touching, engaging and, most importantly in this case, Patrick Monahan is an expert at working the room and turning an audience, if only for an hour, into friends. 

That 80s Show is running at Gilded Balloon Teviot at 20.00