Trump humour sells. That's the first message I took away from this intriguing, unusual 40 minutes of spoken word: it was all but sold out, despite strong competition on the last weekend of the Edinburgh Fringe. But this isn't a bitter piece of political sermonising. Ash Caton's poetry is filled with light humour and amusing flights of fancy, adding up to an occasionally befuddling, always entertaining, and above all likeable show.
Caton is likeable too. It's hard not to warm to a man who rhymes "jittery" with "midwifery" – and that's not even the best or boldest one. His humour is self-deprecating, often inviting laughter at the weaknesses and excesses of his chosen genre; he even has a visual equivalent of a rimshot effect. The self-referential comedy works well, counterbalancing the political undertone and the occasionally inscrutable tone of the poetry, while the denouement it all builds to is understated but effective.
I never quite picked up what the "40 Downfalls" of the title are, but Caton's certainly given the well-worn Trump theme a creative twist. In the imagined parallel universe his show inhabits, he's been invited by The Donald to be the official presidential bard; he reads from a notebook as he describes his interview, including encounters with familiar figures from the American political scene. There are clever, thoroughly unexpected images and a few bewitching twists, such as the rhyming notes-to-self which have made it into his scribblings towards the end.
If the truth be told, though, I got a little lost amidst the fantastical framing story, which travelled to levels of meta I didn't entirely understand. At one point, it feels like we're being offered a view of Obama through the eyes of Trump, or at least a Trump supporter – a daring move, but one which needs a little more contextualisation. There's also an Elvis-themed "found poem", formed of mashed-up fragments reassembled into a whole, which fairly quickly left me behind.
It would be harsh to call this a work-in-progress, but the through-line feels a bit scrappy, and I do think there's something better-formed waiting to be revealed. But the individual poems are creative and entertaining, and there's real genius in some of the humour. More, please, this time next year.