Lee Hurst Man Vs Woman

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

If Lee Hurst’s first tour in a decade isn’t up to scratch, he has the perfect excuse: he left his homework on the bus.

Man vs Woman was to have been based around a ‘battle of the sexes’ game show, as the publicity blurb proclaims. But what that would have been, the audience can only speculate, as Hurst admits that a few weeks ago he left his notebook containing all the questions on public transport en route to a gig.

Plan B involves leaving pen and paper on the stage during the interval and inviting questions on gender differences. It is not exactly a formula for innovation, as proved by one of the very first questions: Why do men insist on leaving the toilet seat up?

The section continues to touch on almost every cliché of the genre, from male DIY incompetence to the age-old female declaration of hostilities: ‘Well, if you don’t know what’s wrong I’m not telling you.’ Though the questioner who asked: ‘Why don’t women like Status Quo?’ deserves a mark for lateral thinking.

Prompted by such audience suggestions Hurst does hit a lot of familiar points, but he has a conversational ease, no doubt honed over the years hosting his own East London club, that brings out the best in them.

He has an anecdote for every occasion and an affable, blokey way of telling them – so that even when he gets sexually graphic, which is relatively frequent, he can charm his way through. There are a few too many easy masturbation jokes, too, but they serve a crowd-pleasing purpose, and the fact that he is so obviously using the suggestion cards as a jumping-off point makes the show feel looser and more natural, and further engenders that rapport with the audience.

Actually, the more scripted first half of the show is less assured. If you’ve been wondering whatever happened to Hurst in the years since They Think It’s All Over ended, the answer is that he’s been making frequent appearances in theatres. Operating theatres, that is, and the first 45 minutes is essentially a run-through of his health problems.

These include – but are not confined to  cardiac arrhythmia. which drove his heart rate up to 170 beats per minute (72bpm is normal); problems with his phrenic nerve which left his with breathing difficulties, acid reflux, asthma, a ‘referred pain’ in his testicle and sight problems. The 48-year-old didn’t even touch on his severe form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis,

Medical problems and comedy have always gone hand in surgical glove, with humour often the only rational response to the ridiculous malfunctioning of our bodies, and Hurst gets a few decent laughs here, not least in his description of the after-effects of the barium meal.

Yet this is often too much conversation and too little comedy as Hurst regales the audience with his myriad problems, with a generally light-hearted air that’s broadly enjoyable, but too few solid punchlines. As a appetizer for the second half, it doesn’t have too strong a flavour, and although you might remember his medical miseries, the laughs are more transient.

Yet the evening as a whole is entertaining is not heavyweight – a conclusion you could probably have reached from the title alone. Hurst is back on the road while his FymFyg Bar (formerly the Backyard Club) is being redeveloped, and while Man Vs Woman could do with a bit more construction work, the foundations are solid.

Review date: 19 Sep 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Basildon Towngate Theatre

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