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Alistair Barrie: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Julian Hall

It’s five years since I last reviewed Alistair Barrie. This fact is significant because I feel exactly the same after I walk out of his gig tonight: disappointed that he hasn’t translated his able, topical club act into a strong hour, when I know he’s capable of doing so.

He fares slightly better than the previous time, but it’s not enough to tip the scales towards a higher star rating. To underline the sense of déjà vu, he’ still using the same joke about two Australian backpackers in Basra being their country’s only contribution to the ‘coalition of the willing’.

Barrie’s slightly more current thinking includes defining the Big Society, using the most obvious route to attack it and lamenting the departure of Silvio Berlusconi, presumably because he was such an easy target.

The framework he uses is also familiar. It’s a take on the 'grand tour' that allows him to use material about the countries he has gigged in and others he has merely visited. As an example of the latter, he mentions a holiday to Costa Rica unaccompanied by his soon-to-be-ex, choosing rather to sample the local, illegal stimulants and finding them a little too strong for his tastes.

Among more pedestrian portions, and routines that struggle against Barrie’s propensity to overact his characterisations (except of Berlosconi, whose caricature is impermeable to too much acting) are some deft observations. Pre-Olympic London is suitably likened to the opening ‘Fuck!’ scene of Four Weddings And A Funeral, giving a real sense of the chaos before the glory set in. Meanwhile, analogies to the British weather pass muster and more personal sequences about his relationship generate warmth.

Along the way Barrie drops in some quotations from his favourite author John Steinbeck, including his description of the American poor regarding themselves as ‘temporarily embarrassed millionaires’.

It sets me thinking that he should do a show based on Steinbeck quotes, anything to give him a thread, a gimmick that reflects well on his own intellect and a vehicle that might require him to dig a little deeper with his observations, many of which show promise but are over-stretched by exaggeration or constricted by safe hands.

‘Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.’ This Steinbeck quote wasn’t one of those picked tonight, but perhaps it will guide Barrie’s next Fringe effort.

Review date: 7 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Julian Hall
Reviewed at: Underbelly Bristo Square

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