John Hegley: Beyond Our Kennel

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

The belligerent genius takes to the stage and offers several grumpy bows before tiring of his applause and asking us to desist. Never has a more petulant man been so likable, a serious man more silly.

John Hegley has been a mainstay of comedy audience for over two decades and with good reason; the man and his poetry are hilarious. He will turn his pen to many subjects from his beloved Luton Town FC to numerous surreal oddities such as invisible hamsters and quackerjacks, all done with his trademark straight face and beautifully lyrical monotone drawl.

He seems angry most of the time until something tickles him and he grins like a child and latches on with both hands, mind racing on how he can incorporate whatever has raised his spirit into a poem. The lady tutting in the front row at a particular line in one of his odes receives some stern attention which then leads to an amendment of the poem and some brilliant comedy.

The latecomer who is interrogated is then personally shown to her seat by Hegley. This severe chastisement followed by the ridiculousness of Hegley donning a rubber cap and rapping about guillemots just leads to unbridled joy, like a schoolmaster confiscating a bouncy ball only to replace it with bouncy castle as punishment.

This authority and reward means that when Hegley asks something of his audience it is delivered, whether it be a solo member to sing or the entire room to make ‘doggie hands’ and chant at each other. No one will disobey, partly out of fear and respect but mainly because we know whatever he asks of us it will be rewarded with something beautiful.

This year’s show is one of his best; the poems and songs are fantastically funny and Hegley’s delivery is stronger than ever. This is something special, a true joy to watch.

Reviewed by: Corry Shaw

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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