Elliot Wright’s Nothing to Lose (or “Big D*** Energy”) autobiographically deals with the disorientation of a young Cambridge student, lost before the prospect of having to enter the world and the challenges this presents. The show is highly self-aware, and Wright’s experience carries the show through issues of execution that would likely cause discomfort in other acts. Wright did not fail to get the room laughing, but at times he seemed to simply be regaling us with mildly amusing anecdotes from his real life which came across as a self-indulgent nostalgia.
It was clear that many of Wright’s friends, accrued over five years of involvement in Cambridge’s theatrical scene, were present in the audience. Wright acknowledged this more than once, and the inexplicably enthusiastic pre-show laughter reminded me of figures like Michael McIntyre and the hilarity they can arouse simply by saying “hello”. Again, in a section of audience involvement, Wright looked to the crowd to select volunteers, and already knew all those to come on stage, at one point asking – “So what are you called Rhiannon?”. I cannot blame Wright for having such a healthy turnout of friends, but I would criticise the tailoring of his material to in-jokes which left the rest of the audience feeling out-of-the-loop and bemused.
More than this, it was unfortunate to see the imperfections in Wright’s stand up becoming the core of his act. This again was only made possible by the connection with the audience, as was made clear every time he had to consult a prompt sheet to remind himself of where he was in the show. I cannot help but suspect that, had the audience been composed of complete strangers, Wright’s bumbling lack of polish would have come at a greater cost to the quality of the show. That being said, Wright regardless managed to derive a lot of humour from the lines which failed to land in the typical way. The self-awareness and ability to deal with the audience’s responses as they manifested maintained an up-beat energy and consistency to the comic persona.
Despite these gripes, I cannot deny Wright’s class as a performer. Be it in relation to masculine maturity or class insecurity, Wright crafts an awkward and flawed character of cutting satire. Underneath the distractions of nostalgia, there is a compelling narrative of continuous self-deprecation which recounts the quest for Big D*** Energy, or the self-confidence needed to feel manly in face of the real world. Within this narrative is one horrifying incident after another, and Wright’s concluding exhortation to not care about what anyone thinks is lived out by the show’s grimace-worthy conclusion.
Although I do not think this is Elliot Wright at his best, I can recommend this show for its self-deprecation and gripping stories. If you’ve been following Wright’s career from the beginning however, or have the privilege of understanding all those private gags, I have no doubt you would have enjoyed a far different experience to my own.