Russell Kane Live: The Essex Variant! | Review of his latest tour
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Russell Kane Live: The Essex Variant!

Review of his latest tour

Audiences don’t want to hear about Covid, Russell Kane was told, but to him, lockdown feels too big and too urgent not to talk about. He even insisted on referencing it in the show’s title.

Thankfully he swerves most of the clichés that are so easy to fall into when speaking about a universally shared, extraordinary experience. The landscape of the show is familiar, but he quickly moves beyond ‘remember that, wasn’t it weird?’ observations into bigger-picture territory.

He covers parents’ quickly-shifting attitudes as to whether schools should have been closed, to his surprise that teenagers were the most compliant group in taking the vaccine, to British people’s reluctance to take a British-made medicine. Kane portrays it as a defining national trait that we love a laugh when things turn to shit. And  they so often do.

What he does avoid is talking about any of the politics of the pandemic response. He’s not previously been so reticent but, in the new spirit of celebration, doesn’t think it’s now his place - admitting that the only reason he agreed to go on Question Time was that his ego got the better of him.

Kane says he’s ‘all about unity’, celebrating what we have in common and urging everyone to hear the other side out a bit more. Covid, he says, highlights just how inconsequential the divisive Brexit debate was. The 4 per cent hit to our GDP might suggest otherwise, of course…

Notwithstanding the new ‘all in it together’ spirit, he still deploys tribalism when it suits him, such as his effete parodies of a delicate woke liberal or blunt ‘take back control’ geezer. And why wouldn’t he, given the enthusiastic response they elicit? As a working-class bloke now living in posh Cheshire enclave of Wilmslow, he’s also in an excellent position to mock all sides, perhaps so they can see the ridiculousness of their own position.

True to form, the show is defined by Kane’s hyperkinetic performance energising the room. He must do his 10,000 daily steps in an hour, purposefully striding the full width of the stage, as well as scrambling on the floor or contorting his body into dramatic poses to make a point. Sure, it’s affected, but hugely effective too.

He’s also very nimble in incorporating plenty of local material into the show, from very specific geographical references to flatting the Liverpudlians about their optimistic nature compared to the miserable Mancs down the M62. This isn’t the strongest of material, but he sells it brilliantly well, and it’s enthusiastically lapped up. More crucially underlines the unique ‘one-night only’ appeal of live stand-up and is skilfully weaved into the main narrative.

The show’s not all about Covid, and touches on a few wider issues, such as the ubiquity of porn – in which he makes the expected references to having to find abandoned magazines back in his day feel relatively fresh – and an on-point routine about how Brit’s best intentions of romantic getaways are so often ruined by overindulgence. And his brief segment about his blunt Ukrainian In-Laws might have given another comedian a whole show, but he rattles through it with his customary pace, eager to cram as much as he can into the show.

Kane insists that he’s not the sort of comedian who does shows with messages, but nevertheless ends with one: that lockdown taught us to appreciate all we have, and his hope that we can continue in that vein, to embrace the everyday with the unjaundiced enthusiasm of a teenager. He certainly has a spring in his step at being back on stage after performing was so cruelly taken away from him – and it’s very infectious.

• Russell ​Kane Live: The Essex Variant is on tour until May. Russell ​​ Kane tour dates

Review date: 7 Nov 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Liverpool Empire

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