Loosely based on themes of death and immortality, Like Breath On A Mirror is a whistle-stop tour of the meanderings of Hari Sriskantha's mind. It's easy to see why this clever comedian has been both a BBC Radio New Comedy Award and Chortle Student Comedy Award finalist.
The piece is gentle and endearing; Sriskantha relates to us like a geeky friend or affable physics teacher, putting his audience immediately at ease. His material is varied, darting between self-deprecation, astute little life observations, and several gags relating to maths and physics. Despite my extremely limited understanding of these latter topics, I was able to fully enjoy the jokes, thanks to Sriskantha's ability to make very 'dry' subjects accessible. And while much of his work comes from an intellectual viewpoint, Sriskantha also includes a large number of more mainstream and easily-relatable observations - avoiding obvious routes and adding the flavour of his own quirky worldview.
Though Sriskantha periodically refers back to his chief themes - the transience of life, death and immortality – the myriad of sub-topics at times gives a disjointed feel, and I occasionally found myself struggling to keep up. To be fair, the frenetic tone was partly down to the sheer speed at which the material was delivered, and since the show finished earlier than its advertised forty minutes that might simply have been first-night nerves. Whatever the reason, the audience would have benefited from slightly more space to take in and enjoy the material; they were very much enjoying it, after all.
Departures from Sriskantha's pre-prepared material were occasional, but delightfully genuine. I'd like to have seen more of this direct interaction, as the brief engagements (mainly whilst beginning and ending) helped solidify the bond between him and his audience.
Overall, Sriskantha's comedy persona is self-effacing and just a little awkward - an image perfectly suited to his attic venue. However, his talent is much bigger than the room he's performing in; there is something reminiscent of a young Mark Watson about him. Empty seats were scarce at even his opening show, and this is Free Festival comedy at its best. So if you're looking for warm, intelligent comedy, which won't offend and where you'll be fully safe on the front row (or if you'd just like to learn a few physics facts) then this is a great choice for you.