Howard Read: Light, Shade, Lemonade

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

When he’s not performing with his animated sidekick, Howard Read does best when he can inject big, bumbling, idiotic energy into his performance.

But sadly, this isn’t the venue for it: a dimly-lit, unatmospheric tent on the old Gilded Balloon rubble site (‘Edinburgh’s Ground Zero’ he calls it) with the sounds of blaring sirens and rowdy crowds flooding in from outside proving no match for the feeble PA. It feels more like M*A*S*H in here than an arts venue.

Still, Read perseveres, and even though he can’t conquer all the obstacles, there are some nice moments in his engaging, if flimsy, hour. It’s a mish-mash of songs, anecdotes, cartoons and cheesy gags. The terrifying lullaby to his new-born baby Sampson is a delight – even if the next minute he’s singing the cheerily flippant ‘Let’s Sell Sampson’ song that also features in his kids’ show.

A mistake was to dedicate half the show to his sexual inadequacy that he euphemises as ‘The Promptness’. He admits he did it as a challenge, but there are only so many jokes you can do about being premature – and he does the lo, and then some. The irony that a segment about this condition goes on for too long isn’t lost.

Howard’s initial idea had been that half the show would be warm-hearted comedy, and half dark material – light versus shade with the audience ultimately choosing which they preferred. Though in the end, the distinction is so fudged the initial idea isn’t well-served.

Generally his upbeat, daft-but-slightly-restrained persona makes everything feel fun, even when there is something black to his comedy. He has up the bad jokes, using his wonderfully expressive face to underline a laugh, and generally jollies us all along to try to create some sort of ambiance in this canvass cavern. He’s a born entertainer, and it’s a generally enjoyable hour, but nothing special.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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