Brendan Dempsey: England Expects
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2006
This is a whistle stop trip through history, showing how England has always expected all manner of nonsense. To rule the waves, to build Jerusalem several hundred miles away from where it's always been and to bring the English way of life to the rest of the world - though they never expected that the rest of the world would then want to come and live in England.
Heralded with a blast of Jerusalem on a mighty organ and backed by a school map of Britain, Brendan Dempsey embarks on a surefire winner, an Irishman bagging the English in Scotland.
Without introduction or preamble he opens his mouth and the worlds stream out with nary a pause or breath taken, bar one 90 second film clip, for an hour. Probably one of the more educational shows on the Fringe (he cites his pop history sources at the end) if only you could cling on to a few more facts from the mellifluous torrent.
In writing a song about it, England claims Jerusalem for its own, which had it actually happened could have provided a surprising resolution for the Middle East conflict.
Brendan belts through the history of England citing Royalty, civil war, Auld Enemies, gaining and losing empire, and sport as a substitute for all that world stage activity.
There are some subtle digs at the worst of British culture, the Daily Mail Little Englander, the airport jobsworth. In a gesture at evenhandedness the Scots are teased for their weather, their fortitude, inability to tan, the modesty of their sporting success and their loyal support for Anyone But England. Matters take a darker turn with a sharper edge to the comedy as he deals with England's expected terrorist events coming from an unanticipated direction.
As a lunchtime show, this a pleasant change from pumped up, crashbangwallop stand-up delivery. Familiar comedy targets are skilfully interwoven with the historic perspectives and the political mockery has a light touch.
This isn't a show where the audience are exhorted, interrogated or humiliated in fact we are barely acknowledged and the show is not dependent audience contribution you could almost hear this on radio without suffering any loss of enjoyment.
The only downside is that the sheer density of delivery, almost a broadcast lecture, doesn't allow your concentration a moment to catch up. Don't blink, or you will miss something