Hal Cruttenden: Straight Outta Cruttenden

Note: This review is from 2016

Review by Jay Richardson

A significantly different show to the one he performed under this title last year, Hal Cruttenden appears to the abrasive sound of NWA with a look of stony seriousness, before threatening to 'fucking destroy' the gobby drinkers at the back of the room if they dare to cross his stage on their way to the toilet.

Of course, the mask of hostility vanishes immediately, and we're reacquainted with cuddly, shallow Hal, an irrepressible luvvie who can't shut up about Brexit.

He is, he maintains, 'quite angry'. But this is repressed, middle-class anger, the kind that complements his renewed love of gangster rap that he first appropriated as a privileged public schoolboy.

Culturally piggybacking fury from the disenfranchised, or simply his Northern Irish wife's aggressive accent, it's a little like him borrowing camp from gay men. There's guilt in his acknowledgement of the theft. But his shtick is built on such brazen hypocrisy.

For instance, he can sympathise with students railing against their debt burden yet admits to pangs of delight seeing these chippy, obnoxious youngsters given a rough ride by the police. An avowed lefty and republican, he'll happily see private schools and the monarchy banished, just as soon as he and his family have had their use of them...

Naturally, Cruttenden can only get away with such bare-faced cheek because he's constantly emphasising his ineffectualness and undermining his masculine authority in his own home: a disappointment to his wife in bed; a wannabe action hero curiously overlooked by Hollywood and a standing joke to his teenage children.

With the hoary line that having daughters makes you more aware of sexism, he adopts a feminist stance and laments the objectification of women in comedy, before deliciously, inevitably making it all about himself once again. Similarly, his mother's death threatens to be personally revealing for a moment. Before instantly becoming the setup for his own fantasy deathbed.

He is capable of looking outside himself, damning the egotistical trend of promoting yourself via a celebrity's death on social media with withering scorn. And he craftily proposes an imperialist cultural treasures grab for England come the seemingly inevitable break-up of the United Kingdom, poking fun at the poor Welsh above all.

Completely at ease and unruffled on stage, despite some of those predicted toilet interruptions, endearing with his theatrical flourishes but relatable for voicing the middle-classes' most niggling insincerities, Cruttenden seems like just the right cheery, mainstream act to parachute into the middle of a fading festival.

Review date: 20 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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