Al Murray: Who Dares Wines

Note: This review is from 2002

Review by Steve Bennett

It's been six years since Al Murray was first nominated for the Perrier award - yet, incredibly, this is his first national tour.

With so much material behind him, you could possibly forgive him if he did little more than assemble a greatest hits package for his first foray into the provinces.

But admirably, he hasn't succumbed to the easy option, and with Who Dares Wines unveils a two-and-a-half-hour collection of brand new material, spurning classic rants even when the opportunity presents itself.

Yes, this xenophobic bar-room philosopher has found new reasons to hate the French, new alcohol-inspired 'insights' into the human condition, and new misguided arguments proving why Britain is Great.

As always, this bitter spleen-venting is spat out with vein-throbbing outrage, a pressure-cooker of blind rage that makes for an enagagingly passionate performance.

Murray is also fantastically skilled at weaving the invented foibles of his new-found audience buddies into his scripted routines, keeping the evening fresh and personal.

For he is still at his best riffing with the crowd, the reactionary barman ready with a sneering put-down for every new-fangled occupation chosen by the punters.

Gags come quick and fast, and Murray's not afraid of dropping in a sly side reference to prompt a knowing laugh from the minority, safe in the knowledge that the torrent of material and force of his personality will see him right.

His best stuff, though, is much more than a modern-day Alf Garnett simultaneously parodying and cashing in on narrow-minded prejudice. When he's really flying, it's because the material is based on solid foundation of intelligent observations, brilliantly voiced in the confused anger of a character who simply cannot understand that all is not black-and-white.

Murray tackles everything from the futility of faith to old chestnuts like the difference between men and women, in doing so providing ample proof that there can still be brilliant, fresh gags in the most common of topics.

The show, though, ends on a whimper, not a bang, with an ill-conceived pub quiz, Fact Hunt, named after the fictional TV show from Murray's Sky series Time Gentleman Please.

But bringing punters onto the stage, and constraining the Guv'nor's dynamic performance with unnecessary structure, sucks out the pace and energy Murray worked so hard to achieve.

The two contestants, who the audience cannot hear anyway, need to have a spark of wit to make this work at all - and that was apparently a tall order for the foils Murray pickedt out of the St Albans crowd.

But even with perfect participants, it's hard to see how this could ever be the climactic end that such an otherwise excellent show deserves.

Steve Bennett
St Albans
October 10, 2002

Review date: 1 Jan 2002
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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