Russell Kane: Smokescreens and Castles Review


Russell Kane has seen considerable improvement since his 2009 fringe show Human Dressage, which illustrated his definite potential but lacked the lustre necessary for a brilliant show. His latest effort Smokescreens and Castles not only won him the esteemed Fosters comedy award at this year’s fringe but demonstrates that Kane has hit the nail on the head with sharp, effective and even endearing comedy.

The incredibly quick, sporadic style of Kane’s comedy takes a while to get used to, but once accustomed becomes remarkable to watch. The speed at which one almost sees his brain working, along with the prodigious accuracy with which his thoughts are expressed is truly impressive.

Kane takes a while to break into the core of his material, although his plethora of put-downs and the dexterity with which he interacts with his audience could arguably create just as effective a performance.

Previously criticised for his overly camp and airy nature, it comes together with a focus on sociocultural divides and his working class upbringing, there is a particular emphasis on his somewhat oppressive father who has been of various significance in parts of his prior shows.

The honesty with which Kane goes into detail about his right-wing father’s racist and homophobic tendencies and his mother’s aspirations to appear of higher status in society gives an endearing edge to the performance; this is real life comedy, better explicated through its construal by Kane.

There is, however, perhaps one slight flaw in his performance. The speed at which he moves from one story to the next makes it appear to be founded on a desultory sense of what pops into his head and not on any particular structure. It lacks a certain seamless transition or flow from one anecdote to the next, combining the ideas together. Arguably though, this doesn’t matter as it is exactly this capricious style which adds to Kane’s appeal.

Taken from The Journal, published online Sun Feb 13th 2011.