Bridget Christie: The Cheese Roll

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

This is an agreeable showcase of a fine performer: three character pieces followed by a short stand-up set about Gloucester's bizarre annual ritual in which locals chase cheese down a dangerously steep incline.

Bridget Christie is from the town, but of Irish stock, and has bags of winsome charm. She comes to praise eccentricity, not to mock it.

The first of her characters is millionaire Da Vinci Code novelist Dan Brown ­ but Dan Brown as if attempting stand-up. Could this have been inspired by author AL Kennedy turning to comedy this Fringe?

It's a nice idea, of this odd American telling corny old standards as if in the overblown style of his lucrative potboiler, though applying that winning formula to four set-ups is pushing it a bit.

Second up is Irish car-park attendant Eamonn McGuire, whose tedious conversation is strictly limited to his job. Again it's a comedy that relies on repetition, this time the monotonous repetition of phrases such as 'pay and display machine'. But there are also some real jokes, and funny ones at that.

Christie plays both these male characters relatively straight, and even thought they are clearly caricatures, they are all the more convincing because of her restraint.

The real star of the show, though, is Charles II, performing observational stand-up on such modern topics as trainers, speed dating and Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, from a distinctly Civil War perspective. It's a brilliant and unique idea, very well executed and witty in the writing. Christie has real fun with the persona, too, which would make a perfect novelty act on the circuit proper.

Odd as it may seem, she seems more natural as a 17th Century monarch than she does in her stand-up, which comes over as too heavily scripted and over-rehearsed. It's admirable that she's chosen such a ridiculously specific subject as the Cheese Roll to talk about, although other gags are hung from it, and it is an entertaining set. But only in brief unguarded moments does she let her true self shine through.

For the finale, she recreates the event with utmost reverence and gravity, almost as if we were watching some ancient Japanese puppet art form rather than a demonstration of foolish yokels chasing a dairy product. The juxtaposition is an absurd idea, but this cod-seriousness subdues Christie's natural vivacity and sense of fun; and even in such contrived stand-up, we ought to see more of the real person.

But overall this is an enjoyable 50 minutes ­ and Charles II is genius.

Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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