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Tom Wrigglesworth's Open Return Letter To Richard Branson – Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

One perk of being a stand-up is being able to re-run events from real life as you wish they had happened, rather than as they actually did. Things that the comedian should have said or done, even if they occur days later, can be dropped into the story, turning it into a triumph.

Well, this is the true(ish) story of when Tom Wrigglesworth DID do the right thing. Seeing the injustice of a confused old lady being charged £115 simply for being on the wrong train, he organised a whip-round of other passengers, and was subsequently arrested for begging. He truly is the off-peak martyr, the Nelson Mandela of the delayed 1015 Virgin Trains service from Manchester to London.

It’s a sweet Good Samaritan story, but probably doesn’t sound like much for a 60-minute monologue. However the affable Yorkshireman easily extends the inspirational and funny yarn, full of righteous indignity, thanks to several hilarious asides.

The villain of the piece is the train manager, who is portrayed as an odious, lard-arsed, buck-toothed Nazi in spunk-splattered trousers and brandishing his ticket machine like a phallic weapon which he uses to rape pensioners of their savings. It’s fair to say Wrigglesworth has very little time for such a man, and heaps on the extravagant insults with unconstrained glee.

But although there’s a degree of justifiable triumphalism in his tale, the 33-year-old underplays his noble actions, suggesting it was the instinctive actions of a man worn down by petty irritants and officious jobsworths over the years; thus giving him excuse to vent his spleen over such annoyances in suitably passionate manner.

All these digressions are skilfully weaved in and out of the narrative to make a satisfying and uplifting hour, spoiled only by the addition of obvious fictional embellishments: the true story is certainly good enough without such dilutions.

Lots of comedians preach what we could do to make the world a better place. Wrigglesworth has actually achieved it – not just with that one-off act of kindness, but by badgering Richard Branson to soften his company’s policy on tickets brought on the train, using the company mission statement to make him feel guilty.

That corporate phrase could equally apply to Wrigglesworth’s show: ‘Exceeds expectations’.

Review date: 16 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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