Jack Whitehall Gets Around | Gig review by Marissa Burgess at the Manchester Arena

Jack Whitehall Gets Around

Gig review by Marissa Burgess at the Manchester Arena

It's difficult enough playing arena gigs as a comedian without deciding you're going to play it in the round; creating a situation where you're performing to more than 20,000 people with the added inevitability of delivering a punchline with your back to a section of the crowd.

But this is what Whitehall does best on his latest tour. It's with a childlike glee and great sense of fun that he uses the space. You might expect some rock posturing á la Russell Brand given his age, the skinniness of his jeans and his gelled hair. Instead he uses the space to allow him to up the posh geek stakes with a sedate arrival on a Segway and a lot of mucking about with a Lion King theme presenting some genuinely silly moments. The only semblance of anything rock star was a confetti distraction midway through.

Use of the big screens is crucial though - even for those of us sitting relatively close – to catch the facial expressions directed at the camera and to make sense of a brief but brave inclusion of a flip chart presentation. Plus prior to the show, and in the interval, he makes good use of the screens with some short films featuring the ever pompous Dad Whitehall, among other things.

Whitehall is an endearing presence, after all he's charmed this many people to come out and see him, most are probably here after seeing his TV work – such as his juvenile posh-twat-with-a-heart-of-gold role in Fresh Meat.

The downside is that his material is, in the main, simply generic - though it should be noted is successful in raising many laugh. He 'tests the water' with a joke about a mosque but apparently having found our level he then continues with some safe and well worn topics – flying on a cheap airline, the horrors of automated train toilets and faking an orgasm – the payoffs to which aren't big enough to set these gags apart.

Not that you can fault his delivery, the 25-year-old Whitehall invests energy into a performance imbued with a natural rhythm. He builds to a well-executed crescendo at the end of both halves - his 'got it wrong, gotta be strong' routine in particular has a pleasing musicality. Then his 'why does this always happen to me' shtick is well demonstrated with an increasingly hysterical story about a stubborn poo that didn't flush.

But elsewhere there's the school playground suggestion that because he is a bit wet people (including his father) think he's gay and the fundamental points in a routine about a testicular examination are very familiar.

However there are moments where some choice turns of phrase do lift the gag. A lyrical description of Lufthansa's cheese strudel makes your eyes water. Plus there are other nice touches such as his 'old man' reliance on Gaviscon for heartburn and the running Lion King motif is an enjoyable inclusion that serves to cement his nerd status and highlight his father issues.

Overall it feels like Whitehall should take one of the aspects to his stage persona and invest in it further to provide his performance with an edge, but as he kept thousands of people entertained for two hours that may be unlikely to happen – simply because doesn't need to.

Review date: 9 Mar 2014
Reviewed by: Marissa Burgess
Reviewed at: Manchester Arena

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