John Hegley DVD review

by Steve Bennett

With all the big-budget DVDs out this Christmas, John Hegley has gone for a more back-to-basics approach, recording his on the makeshift stage at Cardiff’s intimate Chapter Arts Centre, and leaving in all the slips-ups and bits of admin he has to attend to in the run of a normal gig.

It’s perhaps as close as you can get with DVD to being there. And for even closer fidelity, you should hold a potato while viewing.

For comedy’s unofficial poet laureate hands out a sackful of the tubers for his audience to dance with, as part of his singing, rhyming, wisecracking minstrel act – aided in this recording by pianist Tony Curtis. It’s an elaborate ruse for him to deliver they best poetry/potato pun in the history of poetry/potato puns, and a chance for those in the room to join in with the good-natured nonsense.

Hegley has, as always, the resigned air of the world-weary teacher on the last day of term; pretending to be reluctantly controlling the shenanigans, though secretly enjoying the chance to kick back and have fun himself.

This show contains some of his best recent work. Hegley’s not a man to construct a whole new show every 12 months, but keeps adding and taking away around his central themes – which of late have revolved more around his French father than his traditional pet subjects of glasses, dogs and Luton.

Special highlights here are the love poems (especially I Love You Like...), the singing in the round of Luton Bungalow, the catchy Eddie Don't Like Furniture and the sweetly nonsensical octopus verse in which lines are completed – not always correctly – by the willing audience.

It’s the sort of participatory sections which mean Hegley’s gigs cannot be replicated at home. But this DVD – incredibly, his first – is the next best thing.

Main feature: 70mins
Extras: None
Released by: Go Faster Stripe
Price: £10

Published: 23 Nov 2009

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