Ivan Brackenbury's Hospital Radio Christmas Show

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

The joy of the Edinburgh Fringe is the vast artistry of comedy, showing the genre can move you, inform you and stun you. But very few shows offer quite as much ridiculously enjoyable fun as inept hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury.

These may seem the wrong words to describe the clumsy, misguided character; but his second Fringe outing is sharper, more knowing and more imaginative even that his award-nominated debut.

The format has changed only subtly, but enough to offer more variety in style and pace. This is still the same cheerfully ‘bonkers’ presenter so unknowingly incompetent that every dedication he plays for those ailing in Chesterfield And North Derbyshire Hospital is crassly, brilliantly inappropriate.

It generates plenty of sick jokes, each track played just long enough for realisation of the unfortunate lyrics to settle, before we zip on to the next. Possibly wary of criticism – Chortle’s included – that this trick meant the show was essentially the same joke repeated over an hour, Brackenbury’s creator Tom Binns has added more between-record banter, allowing for the plentiful jokes to hit you from more unexpected directions, and it’s these lines tend to be the best. The over-reliance on cut-and-shut jingles, his name inexpertly inserted into genuine radio station idents, is also cut back.

The result is a stronger, more vibrant show. Brackenbury’s inane enthusiasm gets the audience going, too, with all the cheap tricks he can muster, including distributing Christmas goodies around the crowd. You’d think they were in a real radio roadshow the way they holler on cue. Indeed, when he announces that we’re going to link up with the studio ‘live at 5’ you see people check their watches, as if there was a real studio to link to.

It’s the only time they do check their watches, however, as the hour zings by, with gags stumbling over each other to get out. The only time they stop is to allow for the gales of laughter to subside.

Like Les Dawson’s piano-playing, Brackenbury’s incompetence stems from Binns knowing exactly how to put together a genuine, slick radio broadcast. The music gives the show huge wells of energy, the jingles sound authentic – and he’s even hired the X-Factor voiceover man to record them.

With his exaggerated, brightly-coloured appearance, Brackenbury looks like one of those people you see on Red Nose Day and aren’t sure if they’re fundraiser or beneficiary. But he joshes with the artifice of character comedy, pointing out that he’s not a real person, larking around with the sound effects when he has to ring someone, and making knowing reference to the fact the show has a story arc, like proper one-man shows. Not that such flimsy plot adds much substance to the show, which is simple a never-ending bombardment of great gags.

There’s a least six genuinely sublime lines here, and scores more great ones, all sharp, brisk, and inevitably medically fixated. This hospital radio broadcast is definitely worth tuning in to, it’s far more entertaining than the real thing could ever be.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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