Andrew Maxwell: Grand Royale

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Much mention has been made about how Andrew Maxwell was forced to drop a hefty portion of this show after July 7, as it discussed how Britain would never produce a suicide bomber.

Losing that material has left a hole that he hasn’t quite been able to fill, leaving a slightly fragmented feel to the (un)finished product.

And, most tellingly, the wonderful routine with which he ends the show – about a terrifying encounter with sectarian thugs at an Edinburgh football match – has been included in a previous Fringe offering.

The flaws are not fatal blow to the show. Maxwell is still a great storyteller, so natural on stage it’s easy to overlook how much he’s using those comedy muscles. And his tales do bear up to the retelling. For good reason did his peers vote him comics’ comic in this year’s Chortle awards.

When he’s in full flight, he is impressive. A story, relevant to nothing, about how to remove a pack of baboons from a South African golf course, for instance, is trivially interesting, and told with textbook technique.

His finest tools are his passionate over-emphasis, giving all his material a subtle but hard sell, and a nippy turn of phrase that’s as useful as when describing George Bush’s re-election as his father’s gleeful glad-handing.

Despite the loss of his suicide bomber routine,  some topical material still survives. With this he tends to offer an amusing commentary on newsworthy events such as the Pope’s death, rather than anything all that insightful.

He does admire London’s indifferent attitude to the bombs; although the follow-up argument that Edinburgh is too insignificant to be a target isn’t worth the amount of time he spend on it. Perhaps it is meant to balance the London-centric routine that preceded it, but it’s too long. Also, as he admits, he has been wrong about this sort of thing already.

This isn’t, then, the superlative show we might have hoped for from such an obviously talented comedian, whose record puts out expectations high. But it is still a strong, assured hour of straight, funny and  ungimmicky stand-up, performed by one of the art form’s most instinctively skilled performers - which has to be worth a punt.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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