Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Lewis Doherty has some of the mercurial gifts of Robin Williams. Like the celebrated comic, Lewis has an incredible gift for creating characters, and – primarily through the use of his voice and body – conjuring interactions that often dazzle with their brilliance.
For a few minutes, that’s enough. But where Williams interrogated himself and society through the ephemera of the 20th century and the place it’s taken up in our minds, Doherty has little to say – but he says it in lots of funny voices.
On paper, as someone who has read too many fantasy novels and whose teens were a blur of many-sided dice, I’m the ideal audience for what Doherty is doing. In practice, watching Boar is like scrolling through the Facebook page of someone too immersed in fantasy tropes – swords, wizards, dragons, princesses and the rest – to tell a compelling story with them.
If you read Boar in the form of a novel, you’d not give it a second thought. The fact he pulls it off as a one-man show is genuinely impressive, but doesn’t detract from the essential emptiness of what Lewis is doing. Which is a shame, because dotted about the show are some really interesting moments.
Lewis is a sharp observer of masculinity in its various forms, and I’d love to see him do something more directly about that theme. It’s one that could make good use of kings, heroes, warriors, and all that good stuff, which would appeal to his fanbase while allowing room for a wider audience less bothered about iron thrones and hobbit holes.
And no, it’s not my business to be telling a gifted performer what to do in a review. In this instance, it’s because I care. The kind of talent Lewis has needs to be focused. There’s a danger he could become another John Sessions, rightly celebrated for his lightning skills as an improviser on Whose Line Is It Anyway, an amazing performer with a fascinating mind. As time went on, it felt like Sessions was performing more for his own amusement than an audience, treating them to his erudition but with seemingly nothing of himself to offer. He’s not someone you hear from any more.
Right now, none of this matters. Boar is part 2 of a trilogy, and Lewis will doubtless do a storm at Edinburgh later this year. I wish him well. But please, after this saga is out of the way, read some books that don’t have horned helmets on the cover, and have a think.
BOAR was performed at the Nottingham Playhouse on Friday 28 June 2019, and will be returning to Nottingham Playhouse for as part of the Amplify Festival on Friday 11 October 2019