EDINBURGH 2023: Review: LUCAS O'NEIL: EMOTIONAL MAN, Just The Tonic At The Caves

A truly incredible story about family, grief, and finding your place in the world.

By: Aug. 10, 2023
Edinburgh Festival
EDINBURGH 2023: Review: LUCAS O'NEIL: EMOTIONAL MAN, Just The Tonic At The Caves
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EDINBURGH 2023: Review: LUCAS O'NEIL: EMOTIONAL MAN, Just The Tonic At The Caves

A girl with sunflowers in her eyes. A cabin with a view of your mother’s grave. The disorder known as optimism. Not subjects you would expect from your average comedian. But Lucas O’Neil is no average comedian, as proven in his brilliant new show, Lucas O’Neil: Emotional Man.

From the very second O’Neil steps onto the stage, you can tell that the show is going to be different from the other comedy shows you’ve been seeing at the Fringe. He began by introducing himself, asking how we were (like really asking. And responding. Not the usual “HOW Y’ALL DOING” with cheers and applause following). Once he found out someone in the audience was from Romania, O’Neil would take the time to translate some more American-centric things like pickleball, ensuring that everyone was on the same page and felt included within the show. I’ve never seen something like that from a comedian, and it was the start to a show that was nothing like I had ever seen.

O’Neil begins Emotional Man with an introduction to his family, a group of people full of anxieties and fears, including the terrible disorder O’Neil calls “optimism” (one of the best jokes of the Fringe so far, I’d argue!). He lives with his mother, father, and sister in what he calls “the bunker,” the sheltered life that some, including myself, experienced when growing up. O’Neil also introduces the types of relationships he has with his family members, particularly his parents. His mother is his advocate, the one that he sees as the best version of himself. His father? Well, his father named a boat after his sister and not him. And he had two boats (the other remained unnamed, a low blow).  

From the beginning, you have a sense that the show is going to go into some dark topics, but O’Neil truly dives deep and explores his own relationship with grief and the effect it has had on his family, while still managing to throw in some humour. The result? A wonderful hour of storytelling that cannot be considered pure comedy, nor pure theatre. It is rare to see a comedic performance that manages to be more powerful than most solo shows in the genre of theatre, but O’Neil blows the competition away with his ability to have you in tears of laughter in one moment and tears of shared grief in the next. 

Ultimately, Lucas O’Neil: Emotional Man is an absolutely brilliant work of theatre that will have you laughing, crying, and finding a little bit of hope in the world. O’Neil makes such powerful storytelling look effortless and weaves a truly incredible story about family, grief, and finding your place in the world. If his debut is this great, then I truly cannot wait to see his shows in the future. 

Lucas O’Neil: Emotional Man runs at Just the Tonic at The Caves, Just Up the Road at 17:20 from 10 to 27 August (no performance on 14 August).




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