Mighty Boosh Live

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Catch a glimpse of The Mighty Boosh in their late-night BBC slot, and your first reaction is likely to be something along the lines of: ‘Blimey, that’s weird’.

Yet scratch beneath the surface of rapping gorillas, mystical turbaned shamen and breakdancing yeti, Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt are not all that far removed from more traditional comedy forebears.

So sorry for the cult devotees drawn to the duo’s deliberate quirkiness - and Fielding’s rock-star looks – but there’s actually enough here to appeal to a more mainstream audience, too. They’re not good because they’re weird, they’re good because they’re funny.

Whether or not that mainstream audience have yet cottoned on to that is a different matter, but the fact The Boosh have been booked into some sizeable theatres on the strength of an essentially minority interest TV show suggests someone believes a breakthrough is imminent. That most these venues have sold out suggests that someone is right.

The strength of the adulation from the existing fans is evident from the deafening ovation that immediately greets the duo. There’s also a barrage of heckles, but it’s not hostile, but rather the genuine reaction of fans overwhelmed at seeing their heroes, and desperate to catch their attention. Call it Booshmania.

They introduce each other - Barratt’s Howard Moon as a ‘jazz maverick’, Fielding’s Vince Noir as a narcissistic ‘electropoof’ – then engage in some cheeky banter as a preamble to the main show. It’s effortless and charming, teasing each other with affection, and an ease that makes it impossible to tell where the improvisation starts and the script begins.

This is good old-fashioned front-of-the-cloth patter, its roots firmly planted in music hall. They are, in essence, a modern day Morecambe and Wise - right down to doing the ridiculous play what Barratt wrote – although, in fairness, Eric and Ern never imagined themselves as sows and the audience as piglets suckling at their many teats, and Ern’s plays were never pie-based Chekovian Russian melodramas.

If anything shows what a great double act they are, it’s this. Away from the towering artifice of their surrealism and the stupid over-the-top props and costumes, their relationship is based on two blokes bickering hilariously over their very different character traits.

But on to the show proper. It’s one of the duo’s typically epic storylines in which our intrepid heroes must travel to the Forest of Doom and the Artic tundra in a perilous quest to find the fabled Ruby Of Kukundu – an ancient stone which will revive their employer Narboo The Enigma, a hypnotic second-hand shop owner killed by an evil dolphin-raping cockney man-witch – encountering en route balletic yeti, an enormously-Afroed sage and the moon, who turns out to be a charming, mischievous simpleton.

If it all sounds a bit self-consciously weird, don’t be put off. The strong thread of surrealism running through this immensely imaginative show, serves to create its unique make-believe atmosphere, not as a substitute for gags.

Most the comedy comes from deconstructing all this pretentious stuff and nonsense, with the stars mocking each other and cheapness of some of the effects – even attempting a reconstruction of King Kong on a significantly smaller budget that Peter Jackson’s daily banana bill. The show’s also loose and fluid enough to afford plenty of opportunity for messing about.

And among the silliness, there are some damn good jokes – with the occasional use of surprisingly extravagant vulgarity to get a laugh, a trick which keeps its impact because it’s used sparingly.

In fact, in feel and humour it’s like one of the better Python movies – Holy Grail perhaps. And if a show’s half Morecambe and Wise and half Monty Python, you can’t go far wrong.

Boosh devotees will recognise many elements from either the duo’s Edinburgh fringe shows or their TV excursions, but by gathering up all their best bits to serve a coherent story, they’ve produced something accessible to the Boosh virgins, too.

This first major tour is a joyous celebration of stupidity, childlike in its gleeful exploration of the absurd, but with a very grown-up eye on formulating great jokes. The Boosh’s time has come.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Peterborough, February 22, 2006

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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