Marion And Geoff Live

Note: This review is from 2002

Review by Steve Bennett

Let's face it, there aren't many minicab drivers you'd want to spend more than 15 minutes with - especially if they insist on sharing every detail of their divorce with you.

So how does Keith Barret, the deludedly optimistic creation of comedian Rob Bydon, cope when released from the confines of his 15-minute TV time slot - not to mention the driving seat of his cab - for his first trip on stage?

Remarkably well, as it happens. Unlike the character's life, this assured one-man show rarely takes a wrong turn.

Not that it's actually a show, you understand. In an unlikely catchphrase, the audience is constantly reminded that 'this is a talk, not a show', so we really shouldn't expect too much.

This pretence that mild-mannered Keith is simply sharing his tips for a happy divorce provides a useful excuse should any section fail to entertain or amuse. But such an escape clause proves largely unnecessary, for there are plenty of laughs during this journey.

It would have been easy to paint Keith as an entirely tragic figure, as a hopeless man crushed by losing everything he once loved, entirely in keeping with today's trend for the slightly depressing brand of bitter-sweet comedy.

But while the humour may be downplayed, it's certainly not downbeat. Keith is surprisingly jolly as he chats amiably away about his life in a monologue not that far removed from a conventional stand-up routine. There are obvious jokes, as well as the comedy inherent in such an unknowing loser.

Like any minicab driver, though, he doesn't take the most direct route from A to B.

Instead he gets diverted, easily digressing into whatever happens to catch his interest - be it the sale of carrots in baton form, the vagaries of the Welsh language, or even a combination of the two.

This often hilarious show - sorry, 'talk' - is illustrated with slides anything from celebrity marriages that failed to tables of suicide figures. These come into their own during the second half, as we are taken on Keith's regular journey from London to Cardiff see wife Marion, her new bloke Geoff and his 'two little smashers' of sons.

Where the Americans get their kicks on Route 66, Keith gives a tour of the mighty M4 - service stations, road signs, the Severn Bridge, it's all here.

This is nowhere near as dull as it would seem, as Keith's interest in such dreary matters provides a rich source of comedy. But it is, it must be admitted, very close to Alan Partridge's world of Travelodges, spice museums and sports-casual menswear.

As it goes on, however, this particular routine does start to stall, though just as it threatens to fizzle out a great line will spark it back to life.

And it also turns out to be a road to nowhere, with the 'talk' lacking any satisfying conclusion. Keith gets to the Welsh capital and before he gets to his estranged family, he just stops the story dead, with absolutely no indication of what he was going to do. How typical of a cabbie.

Steve Bennett
London, November 2002

Review date: 1 Jan 2002
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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