Chris Neill - Middle Class Misery: The Board Game

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Everything you probably really need to know about Chris Neill is conveyed in his off-stage introduction, when he is announced as hailing from an ‘increasingly gentrified suburb of South East London’.

This line – like the rest of his intermittently impressive show displays a sensibility towards cheeky social observation. Neill acts up as the class snob, but with just enough of a sly wink to get away unscathed.

This is evidenced by the board game (which, of course, looks nothing like the copyrighted Monopoly whatsoever) he has developed that allows its players to simulate the life and times of the middle classes, with the object being to accumulate as much debt through bourgeois pursuits as possible.

Therefore, participants have the opportunity to, at first, take student productions to the Edinburgh Festival but, as the game develops, there are chances to purchase castles and take increasingly exotic holidays.

The gameplay probably only occupies about half of the show, with Neill using his first half to prove his worth with some interesting stand-up routines. These routines are predominantly themed around his show’s two preoccupations (the middle class and board games), and illustrate a deft, distinctive comic voice in the vein of this gossipy and occasionally scathing social observer. His discovery of and discussion about several now-obscure board games is excellent

A couple of dud segments, however, show Neill cannot sustain a constant high standard of writing. This is particularly true of the game part, when each square the players land on prompts a short routine about that topic. Some of these segments – particularly an overlong, confusing and verbose one about Neill’s therapist – are relatively poor, which is disappointing considering the much higher quality of the show’s first half.

Still, Neill is a charismatic enough figure to keep things moving pleasantly. He constantly moves the game pieces to where he wants them to sit regardless of the dice, and keeps all of his participants at ease with equal amounts of banter and flattery. In this regard he is a performer with potential - as an enjoyable, charming and distinctive comic with an occasional flare of inspiration.

But this hour really has just a few too many dips in quality to be exceptional.

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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