Gentle, fresh, entertaining, quirky and very, very funny, I'd happily have stayed through at least another hour of Game Face. James Veitch brings a kind of devious pedantry to the world of comedy. He plays what could be described as pranks – but the kind of pranks that come to fruition when mischievous boys grow up, learn advanced IT skills and develop a sense of irony. For these pranks are imaginative, witty and often hilarious, especially when illustrated by a PowerPoint presentation and some seriously geeky graphs.
With a mixture of cheekiness, pseudo innocence and occasional polite outrage, he targets large corporations, spammers, those with little sense of humour and anyone who inadvertently strays onto his online path. It's a form of trolling – but inoffensive, harmless and nerdy. A healthy amount of self-awareness adds to the amusement. He knows he spends an inordinate amount of time doing the most ridiculous things, and yet appears to take them entirely seriously: trying to sell a Flux Capacitor on Gumtree, arranging and filming literally hundreds of rubber ducks around his bathroom, engaging in lengthy conversations in response to scam emails and attempting to replace violence with banality in online role playing games.
All of which sounds pointless, childish, and unfunny. But the magic of this show is that in Veitch's hands, the most potentially mundane of communications are transformed into dialogues that at times had me crying (and the woman sitting behind me, screaming) with laughter. And this was one of the reasons that it was my surprise-favourite stand-up comedy piece this year.
His material doesn't go near Brexit or ISIS. Instead, Veitch's apparently trivial comedy may offer the antidote to an overload of focus on the traumas and terrors of the world. As we leave, he hands us each badges he's made for us to take away, which – alongside several moments during the show and a beautiful final call back – remind us of the real message behind the piece, to never forget to play.
It's actually quite profound, and at the largest arts festival in the world, resonates particularly soundly. So in the end, this isn't just a frivolous bit of entertainment: Game Face has a purpose. And although it’s screamingly funny, it's unexpectedly meaningful too.