As I took my seat in The Vaults below Waterloo Station, I was met with the sight of a child-sized tent; a table adorned with multiple notebooks and miniature musical instruments; individual cardboard cut-outs of all five members of One Direction and a laminated memorial to Carrie Fisher amongst other objects dressing the stage. Objects that would aid Joseph Cullen in recalling his downward spiral from aspiring acting graduate to a miserable children’s entertainer.
Winner of Best Newcomer at last year’s Vault Festival, Cullen returns with his bewildering autobiographical monologue and thus has “nothing to defend” (in his own words). He paints a convincing picture of the chaotic manic-depressive state he ended up in due to the toll of providing services for kids’ parties and school discos. There were moments of calm reflection interspersed with extremely dry wit and explosions of rage, much to the audience’s amusement. No one is safe, from J.K. Rowling to Zayn Malik, 1D’s former member, appropriately ostracised from the other figures onstage, who receives the full brunt of Cullen’s anger at the world.
You have no clue what Cullen is going to do next. The hour-long spectacle features spoken word, musical interludes and even some balloon modelling – likely to demonstrate some of the skills he acquired in his previous vocation. Many of the poems showed off his literary and tongue-twisting prowess and the subject matter ranged from unwanted pregnancy to his undergraduate coursework.
Cullen is dressed as Princess Leia throughout the piece which adds to the surreal nature of the evening. It is unclear whether the outfit is recycled from one of his previous jobs or is a tribute to the late actress in addition to the touching poem he shares about her towards the end of the piece.
In You Having Olaf? Cullen conveys inspiration, desperation and everything in between. You will laugh, groan and cringe, leaving convinced to never work with children.
Review by Fiona Scott
Winner of Best Newcomer at VAULT Festival 2017, Joseph Cullen’s “You Having Olaf?” fuses character comedy
and stand up in a way that’s painful to watch and upsetting to be around.
Likened to Stewart Lee, Jack Dee and Tim Minchin, Joseph Cullen shares an insight into the mind of a recovering
children’s entertainer; from his decision to take the heinous job the first place, to his breakdown at a 6-year-old’s birthday party that made him think “maybe this job isn’t for me…”, the tragic events betwixt, and the residual effect of poor life choices.
Unapologetically self-defacing and bleak, “You Having Olaf?’ features slam poetry, live-action balloon modelling, and debilitating flashbacks of discos past.
Written & Performed by Joseph Cullen
Title: You Having Olaf?
Venue: VAULT Festival
Dates: 26th January 2018 , at 8.45pm (1hr).