Chris Brooker: Unstoppable

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Chris Brooker gets his excuses in quickly: his laptop crashed a week or so ago, losing the only copy of this script; then he put his back out so is today performing under the influence of powerful painkillers.

The upshot is that it’s hard to know what elements of his second full-length show are a result of expediency, and which were planned all along. Certainly it feels rather fragmented, a series of unconnected routines in search of a thread, albeit delivered with a friendly enthusiasm undiminished by the prescription narcotics.

There’s something of the talkative pub mate about him, able to banter on endlessly irregardless of how interesting or funny the subject actually is. It means the energy never stalls, even though a lot of the personal incidents he recalls – such as practical jokes or his mockery of the pal who wouldn’t go to work on September 11, 2002 for fear of an Al Qaeda attack on his anonymous Nottingham office – are pretty inconsequential.

The lovely room in Manchester’s Trof bar is packed with friends and family, including his mum, dad, ex, and flatmate, so it’s an appreciative audience with an inherent interest. The presence of some of the players in his tales adds a frisson to the event, too. It would definitely be less of an experience without them.

But it’s actually the wider observations, rather than the personal notes, which tend to work better – probably because even in his first-hand anecdotes he never reveals that much about himself anyway.

There are some neat, funny comments on technological advance – from the exponential growth of computer power to the fact kettles once didn’t come with plugs – and his fantasies involving Heroes’ indestructible cheerleader go into guiltily enjoyable darker territory.

Brooker seems a natural compere, and he can’t let go of the tricks. It’s a challenge to generate your own energy in your own show, but his repeated exhortations for pointless audience feedback, even towards the end of the hour, become tiresome. He cannot introduce a new topic without demanding: ‘Give me a cheer if…’ You know it’s gone too far when you hear, as he actually said, ‘Give me a cheer if you’ve driven past Bristol on the M5!’ Thank god he mainly steers clear of the topical material. No one wants to hear: ‘Make some noise if you’ve lost a toddler in Portugal!’

His concluding routine is touching and heartfelt, suggesting there could, potentially, be more to this amiable but lightweight show. But at the moment it feels awkwardly bolted-on, a sop to the sort of emotive climax people think solo shows ought to have. If this segment emerged organically from a show working subtly towards it, the impact would be greater.

But maybe all that is lost on a laptop’s reformatted hard drive.

Reviewed by Steve Bennett
Manchester, October 2007

Review date: 1 Oct 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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