Fast Show Live: Shamelessly Plugging The DVD

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

It’s often the same with reunions. You so look forward to meeting your old friends again, and it’s a genuine delight to renew the acquaintance. But after a while you realise you’re just not that interested in what they’re doing these days. Things have moved on, and you can’t quite recreate the old magic, even though the meeting is enjoyable enough, rekindling memories of those halcyon days gone by.

Well, that’s exactly what it’s like with this one-off Fast Show revival. There’s a real sense of anticipation and occasion, as the full original cast – save for a stubborn Caroline Aherne – are working together for the first time in a decade. The aim is to mark the release of the ultimate box-set DVD; clips from which were shown on the giant screen to whet the appetite.

On stage, all the old gang are here: Bob Fleming; Ken and Kenneth, the Suit You tailors; Ron Manager; the Chanel 9 news crew; Chris Jackson the Cockney Geezer, being a little bit werrrr, a little bit weyyyyyy, a little bit arrrrgggh…

Every one gets a rousing, heartfelt cheer, it’s so good to seem them back. They had catchphrases that rang out across schoolyards long before Little Britain and Catherine Tate, and we’re not going to forget them in a hurry.

The trick is to make these oft-repeated payoffs seem unexpected. Comedy – even catchphrase comedy - works best when the audience is caught unawares, duped into thinking a sketch was going one way, only to be wrongfooted.

To their credit, the team have put together an almost entirely new show for this one-off event, rather than dusting down favourite old sketches, to add an air of freshness.

So when Unlucky Alf appears unexpectedly in the Royal Box, or the lascivious 13th Duke of Wybourne emerges from beneath a Christian singer’s skirt, the surprise element gets the best laugh.

For the most part, though, the characters do what’s expected of them – and we probably wouldn’t really have it any other way. Rowley Birkin QC spins semi-comprehensible tales from his eventful, drunken life; Colin Hunt makes a prat of himself of Britain’s Got Talent, badly aping Ricky Gervais’s Office dance; Patrick Nice has a few stokes of good fortune ‘…which was nice.’

Some folk haven’t aged so well. Swiss Toni’s double entendres are very tired and two of Arabella Weir’s contributions, which were often the weakest links the first time around, fall flat. The spiteful South African shop assistant sneers witlessly at the audience before trying to sell a perfume ‘Brtiney Spears’s Snatch’, while Insecure Woman dons a burkha for the tediously predictable: ‘Does my bomb look big in this.’

There are some more major updates – which also struggle, moving too far away from the characters we know and love. Billy Bleach tries a baffling one-man play; while tough-guy detective Monkfish has become a Zimmer-reliant geriatric. And the bullying banter between music hall acts Arthur ‘where’s me washboard?’ Atkins and hapless Chester Drawers was just too darkly unpleasant to be funny.

We even get a couple of brand new ideas. Two Geordies, looking like Pete and Dud, try to get a new catchphrase going, ‘That was an expensive mistake’, while high-flying City bankers get as excited by their mobile ringtones as teenagers on a bus.

But we’ve come for the old favourites, and for the sense of witnessing something special. To that end, a handful of celebs have been gamely drafted in to make their contribution.

David Tennant walks into THAT tailor’s shop, Richard E Grant makes a typically suave cameo, and Jazz Club assembles a mini-supergroup of Paul Weller and Queen drummer Roger Taylor, only to have them make an appalling racket. Nice. Amy ‘Whitehouse’, a Bruiser of a street fighter, joins the musical ensemble, in a nice touch of cultural parody from a dragged-up Simon Day. In a similar vein, an ultra-camp Chanel 9 version of Mika, worked impressively well.

On its own merits, as a standalone comedy show with no history, this gig would offer thin pickings. It’s brilliantly performed, and has a nice sense of fun, but not much in the way of laugh-aloud moments.

That, though, wasn’t the point. This was a night to remind us of the Fast Show’s decade-defining comedy, and that job was done. Judging from the strength of the reaction when Charlie Higson jokingly announced a new series (there isn’t one) there’s demand for yet more of the same.

Realistically, however, there’s only a very limited amount of juice left in this collective creative tank. It’s probably best if the team go back in their box for at least another decade – we’ve always got those DVDs to remember them at their best.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Click here to buy the DVD box set

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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