Ricky Grover – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Grover creeps menacingly onto the stage like some gothic disfigured freak, cloaked and masked to hide his hideous form.

But it’s all in aid of a joke, and a pretty good one, too. And after that, it becomes clear his true role is not as a Phantom Of The Opera, but as Heavy No 3 in some Guy Ritchie gangster film.

As a squat, aggressive ex-boxer from London’s East End, he’s in the perfect position to play up the stereotype, intimidating the audience into laughing with the implicit, and explicit, threat of violence if they don’t.

This not-to-be-messed-with cockney geezer character fits him like a boxing glove, making much of his lack of education (he was illiterate until his thirties), grace and style, raining down a relentless barrage of funny lines as devastating as the punches he used to throw. Those threats, it seems, weren’t needed.

But Grover’s also keen to show there’s more to him than this – after all, as well as being a boxer he was once a hairdresser, too. But the further he strays from this core persona, which commands any room, the wobblier things become.

First, he just plays up the standard blokey image: lazy, inconsiderate and a pig to live with. It’s gag-heavy territory and he’s got a powerful, effective delivery, but the material, which wouldn't be out of place in an old-style social club environment, doesn’t bear much scrutiny.

Perhaps to counter this, he tries a bit of out-of-character midget-based surrealism. Which would be fine were it not a lead-up to a joke Emo Phillips also came up with in the Eighties.

Grover anticipates every criticism that might be slung at him by adopting an admittedly convincing Tristram-type posh accent to provide a commentary on how an educated critic might receive his act. First time out, it makes for a funny aside, an apparent two fingers to show he doesn’t care how the fashionable middle-class establishment might take him - but he repeats it so often to suggest the reverse is probably true.

Accents, it transpires, are an impressive part of his armoury: able to turn from ululating Muslim to domineering Jamaican mother on a sixpence.

It all helps manipulate the audience, and when used in conjunction with strong material, it's impressive – though he also has a tendency to rely on the bombast at the expense of the writing.

Typical of this is the climax to his set, when he mimes to Pavarotti’s rendition of Nessun Dorma. It leaves the audience on a high – how could emotive music like that not? – but Grover’s contribution is little more than giving the technician the cue to hit the 'play' button.

Review date: 1 Jul 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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