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Tom Allen Toughens Up!

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Julia Chamberlain

Tom Allen makes me reach for old-fashioned words like debonair and urbane. Blessed with crystalline enunciation and velvety, vocal warmth, he sounds as though he was born at the BBC when programmes were made only in black and white.  

Slight of build and deceptively gentle in manner, he exercises plenty of teasing charm with the audience getting them to open up before he talks about matters that people shouldn’t talk about: social embarrassment, confrontations lost, failed good deeds and advances unreciprocated.  

His apparently fragility becomes his strength as he pads through a tough world, which in Tom’s mind means taking on people with guttural voices who drop their aitches.  This isn’t snobbery or condescension; he’s showing an appreciation of almost Dickensian archetypes, which the audience immediately tune into.

He has Ronnie Corbett’s genius for digression within a story and Victoria Wood’s ear for hilariously mundane comments and platitudes and the sheer music of words.  He doesn’t  ‘do’ characters as such, apart from giving his poor mum the voice and demeanour of an Ealing Comedy hod-carrier, but his vivid narration of social situations  - a malfunctioning train lavatory, the office birthday card ritual, the impatient commuter crush, a funeral tea and more – conjure up such brilliant word pictures, crammed with eccentrics that it feels as though there have been far more people across the stage.  

His early meandering chatting with the audience made me wonder why he was wasting time doing compere duty, but he brought together the threads of every conversation and each routine with the consummate skill.   This is a show where performance, writing and content are beautifully matched. His storytelling is so delightful you want him to live a long and anecdotally rich life so you can hear him talk about it on television.  He’s would be perfect chat show material as a guest or a host.

Review date: 11 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain

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