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Chris Coltrane: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Remember before the distracting circus of the Olympics and the Jubilee, how annoyed the nation seemed: student protests, the Occupy movement, UKUncut?

Chris Coltrane was right in the thick of that, participating in blockades of Vodafone, Top Shop, NatWest and the like in anger at their tax tactics which cost the country billions. This show details all these activities – as well as the scandalous behaviour which caused him to take to the streets in the first place, and making something of a call to arms for the similarly dissatisfied masses to join him.

As promised by the title, he makes it sound all rather jolly. Coltrane who runs the regular Lolitics night in London, says he’s not a natural rebel, and lost his appetite for protest after he and 999,999 others went on the Stop The War march, which still failed achieve its stated aim. A few years later, though, he discovered the joy of direct action as opposed to passive marching, thanks to the sort of inventive campaigns that have an air of anarchic fun to them, such as protesting in Oxford High Street by staging a Formula One race with cardboard cars, or interrupting a prayer vigil against abortion with a samba dance, which admittedly might seem les playful if you’re on the other side of the fence.

Not to diminish Coltrane’s obvious talents as a storyteller, but some of these jokes write themselves. At the Fortnum & Mason protest, the list of ‘intimidating acts’ police tried to pin on the campaigners in the official charge sheet included ‘playing with a beachball’. Some of the stories are funny with a bleaker edge. Atos, the private company contacted to decided whether benefits claimants are really fit for work once ruled that one man was a malingerer… even though he was a coma at the time.

This is told with passion, humour and charismatic likeability which could make Coltrane, the next Mark Thomas – although there’s no sign of the original, who has been recommending this show, resigning his position.. Nor does he take himself too seriously, with his brilliantly entertaining accounts from the front line undercutting any preaching with self-awareness and cheekiness.

He puts more personal stories into the mix too, apparently at the insistence of the ideologically similar Josie Long, who directed this show, and he breaks the ice with some amusing stand-up on his bisexuality which adds even more of a human touch to the lively political anecdotes that follow.

It all helps him appeal to the latent revolutionary feelings that seem to be present in more people than the Establishment would be comfortable in acknowledging – heck, even ITV’s Loose Women have flashed their anger. This is an important show to channel that, but also a genuinely fun one, establishing Coltrane as both a relevant and witty political voice on the comedy circuit.

Review date: 16 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Globe Bar

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