Andrew Maxwell: Banana Kingdom | Gig review by Steve Bennett at Soho Theatre

Andrew Maxwell: Banana Kingdom

Note: This review is from 2013

Gig review by Steve Bennett at Soho Theatre

No one embodies the true sprit of the mediaeval fool quite like Andrew Maxwell.

Identifying himself as a clown, he's happy to exaggerate his idiotic, unsophisticated ways as 'the last scumbag in my street'- and with mischievous performance, he envelopes the audience in superb sense of naughty play. Yet beneath all the tomfoolery is a razor-sharp comic mind, revealing truths about the world that any highfalutin commentator with a headful of multisyllabic words would envy.

Banana Kingdom was written for the Edinburgh Fringe, where it rinsed around the ideas of Scottish independence. Sagely, he's realised that this is no hot topic for the people of London, and that only becomes one of several loose, passing themes now he's in Soho. Besides, as one of the few comics who attempts to properly address the news agenda, Maxwell's prolific mind can't be expected to have remained still in the past three months, when there are gags about Rebekah Brooks to be cracked. His protestations that 'I don't pay attention' are clearly a little disingenuous, given how on the ball he is – although his assertion that the Richard III-in-a-car-park story is topical strains credibility, even if the gag is worth repeating.

His relevance can't be disputed. He brilliantly summarises all the hand-wringing over Facebook privacy concerns, solves the problems of both heroin junkies and online child pornography, and has a snipe at organised religion (and atheist bores) without seeming clichéd. Even the ancient idea of the Welsh as a nation of sheep Shaggers gets a brilliant new twist, as does another national stereotype of the clean, liberal Scandinavian ideal.

The fast-moving, impish style allows him to pull off great feats of misdirection, frequently wrong-footing the audience, while the writing is rich with virtuosic turns of phrase. Descriptions of everything from the way pitfalls walk to how he raises his son are as evocative as they are creative. That parenting experience, incidentally, gives him great new insight into the old stand-up staple of the difference between men and women. As a father of one of each, he seem something innate.

His patter is friendly, fast-moving and funny, making the show zip along, even when he takes his foot off the accelerator. He often laughs at his own jokes in that distinctive filthy Dublin cackle of his – which doesn't come across as self-indulgent but instead spreads the spirit that he's one of us in this ridiculous world. Seeking affirmation with affable, unifying phrases like 'right team?,' helps put us all in this together.

His skill, astuteness and wit means Maxwell deserves to be much better known beyond the circle of comedy aficionados; although it's also his down-to-earth experiences as a globe-trotting road comic that give him such a brilliant everyman perspective that's on clear display here.

Review date: 2 Nov 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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