Alfie Moore: Viva Alf's Vegas
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Alfie’s served time as a steelworker, policeman and comedian. The one constant? He’s a gambler. This frank and funny show recounts his roller-coaster journey through glorious, glamorous highs and desperate dark lows whilst held in the vice-like grip of craving the next bet and down to his last tin of beans. Alfie’s attitude to risk emerged, aged eight, when he bet his teddy's eyes in a game of three card brag - and lost. His relationship with his gambler dad unfolds throughout the show, including supporting Big Alf’s dream to see Elvis in Vegas.
Alfie Moore: Viva Alf's Vegas
A lot of comedians describe themselves as confessional, but ask yourself this: do any of them have an on-stage witness box? They do? OK, fine, but are they also a policeman and reformed gambling addict combining traditional, groan-inducing quickfire gags with self-deprecating, touching honesty and intelligent political commentary largely focussed on the deregulation of the gambling industry?
No, thought not.
Alfie visits his box (in reality, a taped off area of the venue floor) whenever he wants to make it absolutely clear that he’s telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about a particular fact or anecdote. It works very well indeed, with several revelations- including one about why casinos have deep red carpets- generating genuine, wide eyed ‘ohs’ of surprise from the audience.
Another startling fact is that half a million under-16s are addicted to gambling in the UK, a shocking figure that he juxtaposes with his own experiences. When he was 15, the opportunity to have a bit of a flutter was confined to smoke-filled bookies and fairground slot machines. Now, with what he considers the wildly irresponsible deregulation initiated by Tony Blair in full swing, young people are constantly bombarded with adverts for Foxy Bingo, casino apps and online poker. They really haven’t got a chance, especially as they’re advertised during Jeremy Kyle.
That’s not to say Viva Alf’s Vegas is preachy. Whenever the tone tips too much towards political ire, we’re reminded of the personal element with a quick chuckle and another story about his own youthful excesses, or his attempts to raise enough money to take his old dad to Vegas to see Elvis Presley (not to mention his frequent run-ins with fearsome Belfast matriarch Grandma Elsie).
Then, when the stories about his personal struggle with gambling get a bit near the knuckle, he reverts back to some quickfire gags and sharp observational comedy to recharge our energy and even out the mood. It’s deftly done, and you can’t help but wonder how on earth a career with Humberside Police - combined with evenings spent watching computerised spread betting programmes haemorrhage huge sums of cash - could have combined to create such a polished comedian.
Alfie may have only started out on the comedy circuit six years ago, but you’d never know it. He works the audience like a long-established veteran, even managing to turn first-night tech problems into an improvised, genuinely funny sequence. The show is well structured and he even takes a few minutes to skilfully deconstruct the planning process itself, before claiming that he blew the director’s fee in the bookies (he wasn’t in the witness box when he said it though, so you might want to take that particular piece of information with a pinch of salt).
Maybe it’s due to the fact that, when you’ve seen £32,000 dwindle to nothing before your eyes, nothing else seems like that big a deal, but Alfie does seem perfectly unfazeable. Having said that, it might also be because none of the audience members are his fearsome Grandma Elsie.