There were sold out signs outside Nick Mohammed’s largest theatrical show so far last night with a second date added due to demand. This is no doubt thanks to the actor’s fame in Emmy-winning football comedy Ted Lasso. Mohammed plays former good guy Nate Shelley, who recently started the new season by going over to the dark side, otherwise known as West Ham United.
The Leeds-born comedian is brilliant in Ted Lasso and equally superb onstage. Just don’t buy a ticket expecting to see Nate. “It is a very different show,” understates Mohammed when he first appears – on roller skates on the sloping stage just to add a little jeopardy to the performance.
This is Mohammed in the guise of his comedy alter ego Mr Swallow, a pedantic, know-it-all nerd with a penchant for mentalism, musicals and mathematics: “A cross between Bonnie Langford and the crab in The Little Mermaid.”
The Very Best & Worst Of Mr Swallow pulls together highlights from Mohammed’s pre-Lasso live work. Sadly we don’t get a reprise of some of this Magic Circle member’s bigger stunts, such as escaping from a locked water tank, but there are lots of hugely enjoyable smaller Derren Brown-style moments. Countless number puzzles that will tantalise you, unforgettable memory tricks that will astound you.
And of course there is plenty of comedy. If nitpicking was an Olympic sport, Swallow would be a permanent resident on the top of the podium. If he is not dissecting every line in The Twelve Days Of Christmas (“what am I going to do with seven swans?”) he is offering a scene-by-scene breakdown-meets-takedown of Les Misérables.
Everything is delivered at such a whirlwind pace it is anything but dull. Swallow is a nasal-toned dweeb who certainly holds your attention. The rougher, more power-crazed edges of previous incarnations have been smoothed over here, giving the character a stripped down simpler, funnier sensibility.
Mohammed’s creation is a bona fide hoot, impossible to take seriously, whether he is delivering his self-penned libretto for Jurassic Park in a voice that could shatter glass or suggesting bizarre ways to remember a shopping list. Has he never heard of pencils and paper or notes apps?
The only quibble is that the show feels a little short. The set flies by in a flash before Mohammed closes as a conductor putting an imaginary orchestra through its paces. It is a routine that owes a little to Rowan Atkinson but reveals another side to this versatile performer. Fans might come because of Nate, but will leave wanting more Mr Swallow.
Duke of York’s Theatre, May 21; thedukeofyorks.com