Alistair Barrie: Uncertainty Principle

Note: This review is from 2002

Review by Steve Bennett

As yet another middle-class white male comedian, it can be hard to find a distinctive voice.

Yet in his impressive fringe debut, Barrie plays with some original themes and ideas - for the most part very successfully.

First thing to clear up is that this isn't a show about quantum physics - so fans of theoretical science may be disappointed. Fans of comedy won't be.

Actually, given that the room could three muster three physics O-levels - including Barrie's own grade E - it seems that the boffins have got the message.

No, Heisenberg's principle governing the observable nature of sub-atomic particles is just one of a veritable encyclopaedia of references in this meticulously-researched piece, ranging from Asterix books and the poetry of Ted Hughes to criterion 4 of the government's international arms sales policy.

That might not sound a barrel of laughs, but this smart and funny show is never, ahem, Bohr-ing.

Like a quark, Barrie's stand-up is charmed. He wears his education lightly and his open, assured nature endears him to audiences.

Uncertainly is the all-encompassing umbrella for a wide-reaching range of well-honed observations and sharp one-liners. He's uncertain about life, romance, religion - all vast suspects, but treated with a rare intelligence.

There's also a year's worth of topical material weaving through the show - and ultimately the moronic sayings of George W just prove too irresistible. It is only here that Barrie loses his distinctive edge as he flirts with the same catalogue of gaffes and fuckwittery as other comics. It is hilarious, though, because, as Barrie concedes, Bush is a natural, if unwitting, comedian.

Barrie's a natural, too, with an incisive intelligence behind his hilarious punchlines. He's one to watch - and there's no uncertainly about that.

Review date: 1 Jan 2002
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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