Marcus Brigstocke: Live At The Menier Chocolate Factory

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Marcus Brigstocke hadn’t made life easy for himself at the first gig in his short London run. Delayed by filming an intriguing new pilot with Sir Trevor McDonald, he kept the audience waiting nearly two hours beyond the advertised start time.

Sure, there were two support acts that he would not usually have, but by the time he took to the stage, he had one weary and impatient crowd on his hands – so much so that he was booed on, albeit tongue-in-cheek.

It would be a tall order to turn this situation around, and one Brigstocke was unable to fulfil. He ploughed through his middle-class liberal material with unfailing professionalism, but minimal commitment. This was a gig that demanded a barnstorming performance, but Brigstocke turned in a workmanlike one - and in consequence never won the audience over nor made amends for his tardiness.

Mind you, what’s workmanlike for Brigstocke still involves a masterly display of stage technique. He forces his points with driving rhythm, has sharp timing for the smartarse aside and can call on a genuinely impressive range when it comes to vocal mimicry: from street youths with faux West Indian accents to Scooby Doo, or from squealing Deep South hick to the seething mass of reactionary prejudice that is your average Daily Mail reader.

The performance ought to be strong, though, as many of the routines here have been honed over years of telling. There are enough Brigstocke favourites here to ensure that anyone who’s seen him over the past three or four years would recognise a lot, with gags about his trademark corduroy suit, consolidating your hundreds of tiny loans and the outraged, incredulous, crescendoing bad-taste rant sparked by his neighbour’s ignorant suggestion that all immigrants are potential rapists.

It was this edgy routine that most exposed the uneasy atmosphere in the room. It’s a rough routine to hear at the best of times, but if told with enough bravura, rage and commitment provides a hard-hitting way for Brigstocke to make his point in a brilliantly daring way. But not tonight; tonight he was far too apologetic to do it justice.

Mixed in with the old favourites were a few more topical ideas taken from his segments on Radio 4’s Now Show, whose listeners seemed to make up the majority of the audience. Freshest of all was a even a mini-diatribe about a controversial Channel 4 documentary casting doubt on climate change the previous night – though his anger at the programme was too immediate for many jokes to have been added to the spleen-venting.

Such righteous fury is, of course, Brigstocke’s forte. He’s able to work himself into a frothing rage about all he sees wrong in the world with eloquently expressed disgust. Vicious invective springs forth about the intolerant, as he unleashes a barrage of sneery, belittling adjectives at those who don’t share his Guardian-leader views. The power of the assault provides the comic force, his point is made and the laugh extracted.

Those laughs still came tonight, but none-too easily; a reminder that even the most experienced of comics can struggle if their – and their audience’s – energies are not focussed on the gig in hand. Let’s hope that pilot show was worth it.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
March 10, 2007

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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