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Hal Cruttenden: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Julia Chamberlain

Hal Cruttenden is about as polished as they come in the world of stand-up. He had the audience eating out of his hand in a dense, clubby set that showed why he is one of the UK’s most in-demand circuit acts who can pick and choose his live work.  

He offered a very good show in one of the most challengingly uncomfortable venues.  How the Pleasance can charge £11 for a backless bench in a room you could do hot yoga in is worth an inquiry at some point.  It doesn’t make it an even playing field for the performers when some of them have an audience in spinal torture after ten minutes through no fault of their own.

His specialist subjects were his inescapable middle-classness and sounding staggeringly camp for a heterosexual man.  His comedy was cosy and family-based, even when aiming for waspishness and political bite; he tricked the audience into thinking he was more hard hitting than he actually is, thanks to the  actor’s training and ability to appear a rhetorician.   The humour is derived from the dislocation between his comically pompous self righteousness (this isn’t a man without convictions) and his obvious utter wussiness.

He ticked some boxes -  rejection of private schooling for his children,  the misuse of the power of Facebook for inane purposes, the London riots, europolitics and pensions – and also brought in his Northern Irish wife, a permanent fixture of  his set.  Is the Northern Irish accent still worthy of comment? Apparently it is, as the audience loved it, particularly in relation to dog-training. 

You have to admire his polished performance and sheer density of material, but there’s something that keeps you at arms’ length, so that although the laughter is constant, he never sideswipes you with the unexpected.  His style is so honed that he has almost created a caricature of himself so the fun comes from recognising a typical Cruttenden trope rather than being surprised by him.

I’m not sure why this diminishes the experience slightly for me, but it does.  That being said, his show and elegant performance would be the envy of most comedians here.

Review date: 16 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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