Andrew O'Neill's Totally Spot On History Of British Industry

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Andrew O’Neill is very obviously a fan of Chris Morris and Armando Iannucci’s work, appropriating their technique of mixing satirical points with overblown non-sequiturs. It means the sensibilities of this silly, entertaining show are sometimes more theirs than his, but if you’re going to co-opt a style, there are few better templates to choose.

Sometimes, O’Neill’s surrealism gets the better of him, and he powers through barely-connected words and ideas just to be wacky. But when the bizarre thoughts are tethered, however loosely, to his theme of British industry it works very well indeed.

This assured show has a suitably industrial-strength construction, with brisk pace, running jokes and a mechanical drive to get from one gag to the next. Short-lived catchphrases give a compelling cadence to the narrative, enhanced by O’Neill’s assertive-but-mischievous delivery. He skilfully twists language until phrases like ‘…and some women’, and ‘Bromley’ take on a life of their own.

After a brief cake-and-eating-it introduction, listing all the double-entendre words in engineering to assure us he won’t be extracting cheap laughs from them, we begin pre-industrial revolution, quickly rattling through Watt, Trevithick and an assortment of Stephensons. Before you know it, the pacy narrative has us huddled round metaphorical braziers as union unrest of the Seventies and Eighties takes a hold.

The pistons break in the last section, however, as O’Neill imagines how the future will pan out, getting rather carried away with his ridiculous flight of fancy about the distopian nightmare, and not entirely convincing everyone to go on the journey with him.

But this aside, O’Neill has created a consistently funny, breakneck tour of his subject, written and presented with considerable flair and demonstrating a keen ear for a ridiculous turn of phrase.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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