Liam Mullone: Health + Safety

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

There’s some mighty fine writing in evidence in Liam Mullone’s entertaining Fringe debut. Inspired, as the title so obvious implies, by the spread of freedom-sapping bureaucratic meddling in every tiny aspect of life, he has a sizeable well of smart and funny routines that make a point as well as a joke.

The only downside, really, is the dry, inanimate delivery. There’s very little variance in tone or pace through the hour, and the various devices he’s introduced to enliven his static stand-up seem exactly that – bolted-on extras that don’t really add to the show. As such, they don’t do the job they were intended to do, as we all know they are just pointless interruptions.

Still we learn, and laugh, a lot during the hour. You’ll be surprised at some of the more arcane of the 3,400 new laws introduced in the ten years since Labour took power – and worried by the supposed safety features in planes.

If you were expecting Health + Safety to be a tirade against the Claims Direct compensation culture or the humourless interfering busybodies who draw up niggly little rules in the name of ‘nanny knows best’, you might be pleasantly surprised. The points are made – especially with the dry bureaucratese of a document describing the playground game of ‘bumfinger’ which they, inevitably, want to ban – but Mullone executes it with a surprisingly light touch. He’s an intelligent comic who communicates with strong ideas, and sharp jokes, not hectoring passion.

There’s a bleak misanthropy, almost nihilism, behind some of his best material. Children aren’t our future, he argues, but the agents of our doom. But while he can get heavy, he can also get frivolous with the best of them, as he demonstrated with an astute observational routine about people covering up their nose-picking.

Mullone, who writes obituaries for The Times by day, takes Watership Down as his Bible, and preaches its underlying messages that a life without risk is a life not worth living – and to trust your instincts, not what you are told. It’s a nice allegory, but he overplays it by dressing his nephew as a giant rabbit and projecting scripture-like quotes from the good book.

It can’t stop the energy flagging towards the end of this late-night show, either, and you rather wish Mullone had tried to conquer the hour with stand-up alone, albeit with a boost of extra performance skill, rather than these gimmicks. His fascinating material is certainly strong enough.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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