Rob Brydon: The Keith Barret Show
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2004
Following the enormous success of Marion & Geoff at the 2003 Fringe, Rob brings Keith Barret back in a whole new show.
On TV, Keith Barret's transformation from distinctive, funny and original character into the mainstream of celebrity is complete, thanks to his spoof BBC2 chat show that last night ended its first series. And it's that most well-worn of devices that he also brings to Edinburgh this year.
Of course, even C-list celebrity guests are too expensive for the average Fringe show, so instead Rob Brydon's now-famous creation pressgangs a couple from the audience to join him on stage as foils for his gentle mockery.
Barret's previous live performances have taken the form of talks on relationship problems, informed by his heartbreaking divorce from his beloved Marion and the loss of access to his two 'little smashers'. A talk, not a show, he is keen to reiterate. "Those who expected a show went away bitterly disappointed," he says in his winning Welsh drawl. "In fact, some of those who didn't expect a show went away disappointed as well."
The same might be said of this simple offering, which is less a show and more an hour of audience banter.
Not that the skill to chat wittily off-the-cuff while risking the more unpredictable elements of an audience should be underestimated. Here Brydon proves himself to have the mental speed and agility to roll with almost everything, invariably parrying each comment with a great follow-up gag. It is, as Barret would say, all a bit of fun.
But for a character who made his reputation from a series of poignant, carefully-scripted monologues where every bittersweet nuance was painstakingly perfected to become a slick, quick-thinking Mr Entertainment is bizarre, if a lot more accessible and, consequently, lucrative.
And there's no doubt Brydon had this appreciative audience eating out of his hand tonight, each smart reposte being greeted with warm acclaim. He even managed to get away with persuading a Fringe actress in the front row to perform an extract from her much-plugged play a fairly pointless timewaster that you could see without acclaim every minute on the Royal Mile.
As well as the ability to work the room like a seasoned pro, Bydon's skill is to mock with some penetrating barbs, but with such well-meaning innocence and apparent kindness that no one could possibly take any genuine affront.
And it's much the same with the show. It's impossible not to warm to such a consummate demonstration of thinking-on-your-feet good humour, even if it's all ultimately to inconsequential to really satisfy.