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Rain Pryor: Fried Chicken & Latkes
Ray Peacock & Son
Rebecca Carrington: Me, My Cello & I
Reduced Shakespeare Comp: Completely Hollywood
Rhod Gilbert's 1984
Richard Herring: Someone Likes Yoghurt
Rob Deering: 12 Inch
Robert Dubac's The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?
Robert Newman: Apocalypso Now
Robin Ince is as Dumb as You
Roddy Fraser Songs
Romantic Comedy: A Stand-Up Show
Russell Brand: Eroticised Humour
Russell Howard: Skylarking
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Robert Newman: Apocalypso Now
Or: From P45 To AK47 - How to Grow The Economy With The Use Of War. Warning: This show contains ukulele.
For a comedy show, you don’t half come out of Robert Newman’s Apolcalypso Now feeling depressed. The oil’s going to run out, probably sooner than we think, and take civilisation as we know it with it, And until that inevitable doomsday comes, we’ll fight bloody, murderous wars for every last drop of the black stuff. Cheery, eh?
But surely Newman, a comic with first-rate oratory skills and the charisma that once made thousands of teenage girls swoon, will rally us into action. ‘We’re going to have to do something,’ goes his stirring battle cry. ‘But I don’t know what.’ Bugger.
Only the most naïve still believe the war in Iraq wasn’t about oil, but Newman probes this to the nth degree. His assertion is that this latest conflict is no mere isolated flashpoint, but instead the continuation of an unwaveringly consistent foreign policy dating from, and probably even causing, the First World War.
Not only does he cover the weighty issues - showing up the bland sloganeering of these past pre-election weeks as the woefully ineffective empty rhetoric it was – but he goes into minute detail. Another theory, for example, is that the Iraq invasion was triggered by an obscure Wall Street currency deal – and it’s given credence by the fact that every nation that took advantage of it, potentially weakening the dollar, is now on George Bush’s axis of evil.
These are the sort of revisionist arguments are normally only found in cheaply photocopies pamphlets handed out by bearded people in socialist bookshops, but in Newman, the anti-capitalists have an eloquent poster boy who makes it all the more plausible.
The theories are backed up with his sizeable arsenal of performance techniques, and not only the impressionist skills once honed on Spitting Image or even the jaunty banjo and ukulele playing that warrants a health warning on the posters. His appeal is more subtle than that, lying in the very rhythms of his speech, sometimes declamatory, sometimes pleading, sometimes jokey and always seductive.
Yet for all this, the show doesn’t flow as smoothy as oil down a pipeline. The body of evidence he invokes to support his stance is just too vast, and we get bogged down in unnecessary detail that makes Nemwan’s long, sometimes-tangled trains of thought difficult to follow through the more impenetrably dense segments of intellectual braggadocio. Perhaps he should take a leaf from fellow activist Michael Moore’s bestselling book and use broader brushstrokes.
The lengthy routine that starts the second half, about a real-life incident in which poets Wordsworth and Coleridge were mistaken for French spies, gets particularly convoluted, overwhelming the valid points to be made about the war on terror and ID cards. As for the latter, Newman neatly turns the favoured pro- argument ‘if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to worry about’ on its head by translating it into its more sinister equivalent: ‘Anyone worried about persecution should be persecuted.’
Yet when Newman has the wisdom to realise the jokes aren’t in the economic and geopolitical issues, but in the asides, the show is as enjoyable is educational. For all the all-encompassing themes, the gags come from a Dad’s Army impersonation, or miming a game of ‘gaylord tennis’ among his beloved 18th century romantics, or suggesting that train carriages be delimited not by class, but by ethos.
These are straightforward, if clever, jokes almost unrelated to the rest of the lecture – sorry, show, proving audiences are willing to hear his arguments, if they are rewarded by a laugh – and they’re not that fussed from whence it comes. Though that he can find any humour at all while coolly informing us we’re all going to hell in a handcart is some sort of achievement.
Absolutely captivating and involving. I was dubious about the political nature of this, but I needn't have worried this was easily the best gig of the festival for me.
For every step that Newman's old partner David Baddiel has settled comfortably into middle-class middle-age, Newman has taken a leap back to his left wing youth. This is commendable in some respects, but can't help but seem a little sad in others. He leaps about with all the enthusiasm of a Citizen Smith for the 'noughties'. Very preachy and not for anyone with even the slightest, subconscious right wing tendencies
Very disappointed esp bearing in mind the rave reviews he's had elsewhere - but then they were praising the politics methinks. He has a cheek complaining about capitalism and then having an interval to buy more beer
Saw this at Edinburgh. Yes it's depressing, yes it is deliveredin a lecture format, and yes it goes into lots of detail. BUT It is solidly thought-provoking, solidly well delivered, and, the comedy points are solidly well-crafted. Don't go and see it if you don't relish being challenged. DO go to see it if you if you get your views on the world through reading the Daily Mail.