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Marcus Brigstocke: God Collar - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

This is a hugely ambitious show from Marcus Brigstocke. Usually one of atheism’s most strident tub-thumpers, he’s taken a step back and pondered the ideas of belief more thoughtfully and subtly, with a boldly personal take on a complex issue usually presumed to be black and white. So even if the finished product could do with a few more laughs, the scope and intent of this wide-ranging hour is admirable.

Rational atheism has been the growing mood in comedy, and possibly society, over recent years. But any decent comedian should be a contrary soul, so Brigstocke is one of the first – but probably not the last – to turn his intelligent cynicism on some of those who hold his own beliefs, telling fellow atheists: ‘You’re not cleverer than anyone else, so pack it in.’

Richard Dawkins is likewise blasted for being intolerably smug. Which, coming from the professionally self-righteous Brigstocke, may be a little like Abu Hamza calling Jim Davidson a misogynist, but doesn’t diminish the point.

It’s the certainty of the atheists he has a problem with – just as he has distrusts religious fanatics who believe they know God’s mind and can worship Him despite the old-testament genocide. Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims get their usual ferocious verbal battering, telling homophobes and primitive Islamists who think it’s necessary to ‘put women in a bag’ simply to ‘grow the fuck up.’

Though on familiar territory, the disdainful bile produces some splendid, passionate lines – a couple very near the knuckle and better for it. Yet for all his invective, Brigstocke admits to having a ‘God-shaped’ hole in his soul, and is envious of those who can fill it with irrational belief. When he experiences the innocent joy of his children – or has to face the early death of his close, penis-exposing friend – a deity would be an ideal deposit for his emotions.

As the arguments become more ambiguous, the jokes start to evaporate, and Brigstocke admits there’s no conclusion to the show. That’s no surprise since that would probably require empirical proof of God’s existence or otherwise – which would certainly be an ending to talk about. But whatever the truth, Brigstocke’s journey around it is fascinating.

Review date: 27 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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