Review by Daniel Hutchings
Callum Straford is attempting perfection at The Butterfly Club this Fringe, with Callum Straford Nails Everything.
Callum has decided to do everything perfectly, and over 55 minutes of sketch, song and stand-up, he attempts to nail all facets of his life - going to parties, dating, learning languages, meditation, the works. There’s no room for error, baby, and it’s going to be flawless. So the obvious question, is, of course: does he nail it? I’d say yes, but that might be missing the point. Life doesn’t quite work like that, as Straford works out with a sense of humour.
Nails Everything is a very creative show, and Straford’s sketch concepts are diverse and funny, often taking ideas into directions you might not expect. Highlights of the show include a song about the deep grief… of dropping your AirPods into the Yarra River (sung, of course, from the perspective of the AirPods), and a very sensual ode to sunscreen (Straford loves his SPF). He might not sing like Freddy Mercury, as he promises he will, but this is hardly to the show’s detriment, as he is talented enough of a songwriter that his comedic songs work regardless. His sketches make good use of the space and stagecraft as well, and The Butterfly Club - always a delight to see a show in - is a good choice for the performance. A shout out should go to the techie as well, as the timing was perfect. You won’t believe what happens to the lights when Straford asks the audience if they’re ready for a dark joke.
Straford is a comfortable performer, and despite a small opening night crowd (it was 10pm on a Monday after all!) he kept the energy up the whole way through. He engaged well with the audience, and participation bits that could have fallen flat worked well as a result. These bits of participation also didn’t feel jarring, or unwelcome, as they sometimes can, but instead created a nice intimate atmosphere. Audience members didn’t feel embarrassed or singled out when asked questions like ‘Does happiness come from external factors or within?’, and even involving an audience member in the aforementioned sensual-sunscreen sketch worked well - although I can imagine that not every audience is going to have a member as willing as on Monday night (though Straford probably has a plan for that as well)!
While the show is, of course, mainly a comedy, it all builds to an unexpectedly poignant end, as Straford realises that perhaps striving for perfection is overrated. Sure, he dropped his AirPods into the Yarra River, and sure, his car broke down on a first date, and he sometimes says the wrong thing and hasn’t changed his bed sheets in longer than he cares to admit, but the important thing is that he is getting better. It’s a relatable ending to a very funny show, and one that feels earned after Straford has put all his vulnerabilities on show for close to an hour. I found myself genuinely finding comfort in this sentiment. It’s not often a sketch cabaret can elicit this kind of emotional response, but Straford - a young comedian to watch - nails it.