John Hastings is a little surprised tonight. He claims previous nights haven’t been nearly as busy, and this is the best crowd he’s had this Fringe. If anything he’s almost fazed by us – humbled, even. But for Audacity, the observational material is tight, he’s confident, and hits his storytelling beats with puffed-chest pride.
Leading the fore is his penmanship; Hastings is a lean comic writer, distilling punchlines into hardened little jabs of wit. His arts degree background – mined briefly for a throwaway line – lends his jokecraft a pleasing theatricality, allowing him to tackle otherwise meaty issues like white privilege or police brutality with a reassuring eloquence.
Where he really shines is in his sharp reactions to the audience, the surrounds and his own material. The crowd is certainly more cooperative than the surrounding sound bleed, but he incorporates the disruptions into his routine with seasoned ease. And when he stumbles with his pre-written gags, the self-referential improvisation is genuinely thrilling.
A paper-thin tent at a humid festival is nobody’s best environment. But under the sweat beading from Hastings’ boyish cap this evening, there’s a standup pro finding his feet.