Seann Walsh, After This One, I’m Going Home, review: an entertaining salvo of self-deprecation

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Seann Walsh
Seann Walsh Credit: Roger Garfield / Alamy Stock Photo/www.alamy.com

Last autumn, Seann Walsh went from straggly-haired charmer and have-a-go-dancer on Strictly Come Dancing to the nation’s whipping-boy in the blink of a startled eye.

“I was the most hated comedian in Britain,” Walsh – 33 – proclaims with little hyperbole to an avid audience of fans and curious punters in Norwich as he relives the uproar and infamy that attended his snapped “snog” outside a Marylebone pub with his married dance-partner Katya Jones. 

It was an infidelity that made the front-pages, revived talk of the “Curse of Strictly”, and put the kibosh on his five-year relationship with Rebecca Humphries, who took to Twitter. What Walsh called “a one-off drunken mistake” happened on the actress’s birthday; “I hope he gets what he wants from this,” she sniped.

Is this tour, in which he rakes over still-glowing coals and extrapolates mirth from recent wounds, taking place too soon, courting the charge of exploiting the debacle for a quick buck? Aside from marvelling at the chutzpah of a man prepared to share his travails in front of strangers between now and June when you might expect him to be cowering in the corner of a therapy clinic, I approached “After This One, I’m Going Home” with high scepticism. In fact, of all the critics Walsh would least want to have passing swift judgement, I must rank high-up among those likely to award him zeroes. While others loved his Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated show, The Lie-In King, in 2013, I dubbed it “cultural land-fill”, finding the references over-familiar, the material generic. 

In the interim, and since the world crashed around him, Walsh has come on in leaps and bounds, though. On a technical level, he’s superb, astute in his re-telling of the saga, knowing what to confide, what to leave out, when to digress, physically in command as he scamperingly paints the scene. He’s frank and open but not irksomely matey. “I’m not looking for sympathy,” he tells us – clad in a sombre array of black jacket, t-shirt and jeans (the modern answer to sack-cloth and ashes, perhaps) – and while that’s an inevitable line to take, the tone of it sounds honest enough. He laughs at himself, invites us to see the funny side of his persona-non-grata predicament (“I kept Brexit off the front pages for 12 days,” he joshes, “I kissed her for you!”). Yet he registers the trauma. 

Seann Walsh and Katya Jones on Strictly Come Dancing Credit: Guy Levy/BBC/PA

His opening allusion to his Strictly nadir is playfully perfunctory: “You spend a lot of time with your dance-partner… we got on, we went for a drink, one thing led to another and I’m sure most of you have seen what happened next”. After experiencing the happiest day of his life, dancing the paso doble to a Matrix theme, the rug of contentment got pulled from under him as he learnt of the tabloid scoop. “For four months, my life flipped upside down – I got thousands of abusive tweets. I’ll be honest with you, it was quite hard to take,” he quips in an American-ised whisper (he went to LA to seek restorative optimism, came home relieved to be met with British miserabilism). He treads a fine line between resilience and remorse, dodges self-pity, piles on the self-deprecation.

His dispatch from the eye of the storm entails a whirlwind tour of his youthful infatuation with comedy (taking in the boisterous streets of Lewisham and attending a revelatory gig as a no-hoper teen in Brighton) and a self-lacerating account of how he began to lose his way even as his stand-up career took off.

He does a perfect impersonation of an archetypal Michael McIntyre routine, but it’s entirely at his own expense, as proof of how he lacked his own “voice”. After a series of dud TV projects and a disastrous Royal Variety Performance, Strictly in 2018 was a make-or-break opportunity to connect him with the public. “It was my one last chance to not f*** it up, and boy did I f*** it up,” he mock-howls.

Seann Walsh with ex-girlfriend Rebecca Humphries  Credit: David M. Benett/Getty Images Contributor

Some may argue that he doesn’t self-flagellate enough: “I got dragged into the #MeToo and timesup movement – that was quite stressful,” he notes, in a pointedly understated aside. In contrast to his contrite recent appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show, he doesn’t address the hurt he caused Humphries full-on. But as he entertainingly relives the panic attack he experienced on the streets of Notting Hill during his first paranoiac foray from the hotel he was forced to relocate to during the furore, it’s hard not to conclude that he paid a hefty price for his misdemeanour. He lies on the stage-floor – reliving every yelping detail, even the need to shield his face lest he be spotted and filmed.

Having wanted to join the stars, he wound up, literally, in the gutter; and while this Irish-descended wag can’t be said to match the great Oscar Wilde for wit, something about his humiliation has echoes of earlier, viciously moralising times. “Social media gives people the opportunity to tell other people what they think of them without the consequences or having conflict,” he observes, mulling the age-old value of covert bitchiness – words of strictly necessary (however seemingly obvious) wisdom. Fair play to Walsh for getting back on his feet.

Touring until June 2; offthekerb.com