Open Mic @ The Globe

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

This is the year for anachronistic stand-up, it seems. Over in the Traverse, Dr Johnson is firing razor-edged jibes at modern Scotland, while here in the Green Room some of the Bard’s best-known characters are giving comedy a bash.

Putting Open Mic in the title, however, suggests a certain lack of ambition, and the result is indeed uneven. Some of it is stand-up that wouldn’t pass muster without the gimmick, but equally there are many more good lines than you might expect were this the earnest product of some drama student project.

Behind it are two stand-ups, Hils Barker and Mackenzie Taylor, with actor Alex Dee. Taylor is compering, as Bill Shakespeare himself, working on the principle that if comedy equals tragedy plus time, the greatest tragedian in the English language plus 450 years should be hilarious.

The flip side, however, is that Shakespearean comedies are notoriously unfunny, and early limp gags like, ‘Bisexual? I’ve never had to buy it in my life’ threaten to tar this show with the same brush. But thankfully things pick up, and as Bill savages modern interpretations of his work with indignant passion, laughs start to flow.

It’s a lesson that when the comedy is at its most knowing, it gets the best reaction. Any show referencing Shakespeare will attract an intellectual crowd, who like their egos massaged with jokes they can feel clever about getting, and will chortle loudly to show their wisdom.

Our first act of the night is Hamlet, looking like you might imagine a manic Dane would be, mad hair and full of anger. Dee gives him a nice attitude, but the material fails him, with rather mundane observations about why Superman is gay or Actimel advertisements. More about Elisnor and less about Metropolis would have given this a lift.

Katherine, from The Taming Of The Shrew, on the other hand, is a delicious character turn from vampish Barker. Donning a seductive cocktail dress and cut-glass accent, this no-nonsense mankiller shares her S&M fantasies and lust for inappropriate men such as Gordon Brown – just her type because he’s fat and angry. Again, a few more gags wouldn’t go amiss, but as a take on a modern Katherine, it’s droll and entertaining.

Richard III is bitter and twisted, in body and soul. Dee can turn on the right menacing snarl for the job, hissing his lines through curled lip. The misery is palpable, and gives an added edge to the best lines.

Ophelia, the presumed suicidal girlfriend of Hamlet, is the final act, today an angsty insecure Goth who idolises Russell Brand and emphasises with fellow Royal girlfriend Kate Middleton, seeking to befriend her on Facebook. Yet again the persona is stronger than the material, though it does have its moments, and Barker gets to end on a song so bleak it makes Marilyn Manson look like Jive Bunny.

It all makes for an entertaining hour, but one which isn’t quite sure where its sensibilities lie. More subtle references to the original plays and less stand-up that could be delivered by any real-life modern comedian would have swung it.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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