Kevin Bridges at the SECC

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Jay Richardson

Upgrading from a 50-seat Edinburgh Fringe venue to the SECC, Glasgow’s 10,000-capacity aircraft hangar, in under ten months, Kevin Bridges’ rise has been little short of meteoric, propelled by appearances on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and Live at the Apollo.

A carefully co-ordinated management strategy and the marketing power of the BBC are only part of the Clydebank-born stand-up’s breakout success. Incessant word-of-mouth about this wunderkind, since his earliest open spots as a 17-year-old, reflect Scottish appetite for attuned observations about their ain folk. Giant screens advertise the DVD of this gig for pre-order this Christmas, but, as Bridges jokes, there’ll be bootlegs at the Barras market by Sunday.

Until Billy Connolly and Frankie Boyle abdicate, Bridges will never be the Clydeside King of Comedy, yet taking the stage before the obligatory Elvis backdrop of his name in lights, he’s unquestionably the heir apparent. Only 23 and still living with his parents, travelling by public transport and inciting choruses of disapproval about the price of a pint in ‘that fucking SECC’, he’s firmly rooted in Glasgow.

And Glasgow in him. Acknowledging the perversity of civic pride in a rough, working-class city with low life expectancy – and that the stereotypes are only true up to a point – they nevertheless afford him endless inspiration, an assertive swagger and an undercurrent of poverty and violence with which to colour his routines. Alcoholic woodwork teachers, the wee guy who can get you anything for £40 and vicious dogs that’ll rip your arm off, these are the carefully observed players in a grim tableau that stretches the distance of the number 40 bus route, the ‘Glasgow safari’ from Clydebank to Easterhouse via Drumchapel. There’s even an affectionate anecdote about the young comic tacitly bonding with his father over porn.

At his least impressive, hungover Scottish kids are imagined sharing a holiday swimming pool with their middle-class English counterparts for easy laughs of self-deprecation and inverse snobbery. Similarly, when travelling south of the border, his moderated accent is met with incomprehension by a twittering nit from Leamington Spa, yet the same tones earn him the label ‘poof’ from his fellow countrymen. It’s a reasonable routine on status, identity and mutual misunderstanding between Middle England and ‘the regions’, just not terribly original.

Rather better are the contrasts he draws between the house parties of American high school movies and those of Scottish reality, the anarchy of a parent-free ‘empty’. He caustically and effectively mocks the tame movie clichés, but it’s the vivid details of his ‘real’ characters and the tensions between them, the squabbles over missing lager, the weird guy in the corner, that conjure those acute moments of recognition. He returns neatly to the ‘empty’ theme later, when, in a moment of unorthodoxy for stand-up, he refreshingly, if rather tongue-in-cheekily, champions religion against atheism.

Appearing for the most part completely at ease, though a few drunken contributions from the back rows might make the DVD edit interesting, Bridges’ punchy delivery and language is ideally suited to the larger stage. His brutally poetic turn of phrase is ably demonstrated by a routine about the kids’ TV show Get Your Own Back. You can see the conclusion coming a mile off, yet still appreciate the beautiful compound of ugly words. Likewise, the Latinate ‘forte’ and ‘faux-pas’ are deliciously effective when used to portray a violent crime and befouling a household appliance.

Occasionally, as with a slight on his mother’s looks, a nice line gets a more elaborate setup than it deserves. And there’s an unfortunate moment when he echoes his support act, and indeed, rather too many male comics, nostalgically reminiscing about finding discarded porn in woodland. Tellingly though, and for all Simon Evans’s. witty treatment, Bridges obliterates his memory with a single, choice quip of football terminology.

Spoofing the long-established Scotland With Style tourism campaign is going to look a bit dated come the DVD release in November, as will impressions of the 2007 Glasgow Airport terrorist attacks, even if they segue nicely into a standout routine about an ill-fated jihadist flying to Majorca. Regardless, with this assured performance, Bridges confirms himself as one of the most accomplished young comics on both sides of the border.

Review date: 30 May 2010
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Glasgow SEC Armadillo

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