Angelos Epithemiou And Friends Christmas Show

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Angelos Epithemiou owes a big debt to Bob Mortimer. Not only did he pluck the character straight from the sketch comedy circuit – or burger van, to propagate the mythology – and on to TV, but his influence can be heavily felt in his protégé’s debut tour.

At times, it almost feels like a Reeves & Mortimer tribute act, with elements from Big Night Out and Shooting Stars such as the unanswerable quiz questions, the inanimate objects becoming musical instruments, and the desk adorned with kitsch tat. Even ‘What’s on the end of the stick, Vic?’ has been reinvented as ‘What’s in the bag, Angelos?’ with its own singalong theme.

Yet other parts of the show are unmistakeably Epithemiou’s own, branded with his lazy reluctance to be an entertainer. He’s keen to press on and get this irritating show business over with so he can get home to watch the 30-Stone Teenager. As he stands awkwardly before us in his grubby anorak, too-short trousers and too-long tie, he dourly admits that he’s only got three jokes to cover the whole show, ‘so we’re all in the shit.’

It’s comments like this that get him branded an ‘anti-comedian’, wilfully shunning any obvious comic devices as a cheap cop-out. While Dan Renton Skinner’s creation certainly shares some of that philosophy, deftly underplaying the delivery, he doesn’t abandon every trick.

In fact, the bits of the show that go down the best are about as old-school as you can get: a traditional ‘what’s the difference between…’ pub gag and a section in which he attempts impressions demanded by the crowd – to surprisingly good effect, even if ‘Simon Weston’ was a suggestion too far.

Improvised banter is another of Skinner’s strong suits, as demonstrated in the Q&A session. Tagged on to normal stand-up gigs, these rarely work particularly well, but here, when he treated the questions with the contempt the deserve, there were laughs to be had.

Like Reeves and Mortimer, Epithemiou is at his best when corralling the audience so we’re all in one big in-joke, and he is especially successful in quite a gang-show feel going in his musical section, though he does dissipate that energy in the sluggish quiz Epithemiou Or Bust?, in which an punter is asked impossible questions before taking part in a ridiculously silly stunt. Sound familiar?

It’s all in keeping with the generally patchy feel of the show, which isn’t quite sure of what it wants to be. When he’s good, Epithemiou is brilliant, with unexpected lines delivered with perfect judgment, but sometimes the character’s lack of focus rubs off on the material.

The promise of ‘…and friends’ is something of a misleading one, as this mostly refers to the very small circle of chums he talks about on stage, including his ‘kind of’ girlfriend Margaret and the strange Ian, whom he represents by a badly-stitched ventriloquist’s dummy. Let’s just say Nina Conti has nothing to fear… There was one guest slot, though: Nick Mohammed as his camply overexciteable memory man Mr Swallow, who takes so long on digressions he never got to any memory tricks. But this roundabout approach didn’t resonate with the audience, and he got a cold reception in such a limited spot. The Vanessa Mae jokes started to win them round, but he lost it again by adding lyrics to the Jurassic Park theme tune. It’s like Anita Dobson all over again…

But there was no doubt this was Epithemiou’s night, and while the tone was uneven, he does cut an intriguing, distinctive and frequently funny character.

Review date: 8 Dec 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Bloomsbury Theatre

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