Russell Kane's Smokescreens And Castles
DVD review by Steve Bennett
There’s no doubt that this was Russell Kane’s breakthrough show: a passionate and deeply personal ‘warts-and-all’ look at his often distant relationship with his father – a full-on working-class Essex geezer, a former sheet-metal worker and bouncer who would almost be a stereotype if he wasn’t real.
And what warts they were: Dad Dave was burly, emotionally-closed, racist and homophobic, hating the pursuit of knowledge and emotionally retreating into his metaphorical ‘castle’ as he feared the unknown.
In rebellion, the young Kane took to drama – much to the chagrin of dad, who though this just one step away from having his worst alpha-male fear realised: having a gay son. To this day, Kane’s stand-up performance is of the most flouncy, camply theatrical type. He sometimes overdoes the on-stage posturing, but here he’s judged it well, giving a physical energy to his first-hand anecdotes. Similarly, while Kane Sr didn’t have a book in the house, Jr delights in such florid phrasing you sometimes feel he’s swallowed a thesaurus.
But the delivery is just garnish to what is a tale with real heart, explaining Kane’s fixation with class though a packed anthology of stories about his relatives and his upbringing, populated with genuine characters, evocatively portrayed.
Even Dad, who could so easily be painted as a one-dimensional villain, has depth – after all, he’s family, and there is an abiding love there, however uncomfortably it may be relayed. That warmth is most strongly evident in the two finest segments of the 70-odd minutes: one about a dust-up in the local curry house; the other the powerfully poignant conclusion that brings the show to an emotive end.
Kane himself is not excluded from the analysis, unafraid to appear lost between the working-class world he came from and the erudite middle-class one he so desperately wants to be in, despite his jibes at its more pretentious elements.
This DVD was recorded at the Palace Theatre in his home town of Southend, giving the recollections an added relevance, especially given the repeated cuts to his mother in the Royal Box hearing things, often far from complimentary, about the man she married.
The show won Kane the Edinburgh Comedy Award last summer, and the version he’s committed to disc has improved on that already strong offering: it’s now less rushed and the story takes a clearer path through the excitable rush of ideas. But there’s no compromise on the intelligence, with plenty of smartness on display in routines such as his take on accents, or the political right’s aversion to climate change science.
This is certainly a strong offering, providing food for thought as well as plenty of hearty laughs.
- Russell Kane: Smokescreens And Castles was released on Monday by Universal Pictures. Click here to order from Amazon for £12.93.
Posted: 10 Nov 2011