Alistair Barrie: Woke In Progress | Review of the circuit veteran's new tour
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Alistair Barrie: Woke In Progress

Review of the circuit veteran's new tour

This is not a good title for Alistair Barrie’s 11th solo show. The ‘in progress’ part suggests something he’s still working on, whereas it’s a technically slick hour, tightly crafted to maximise the impact, and the ‘woke’ suggesting a divisive political viewpoint that could be anathema to at least half his potential audience.

But while he might epitomise the liberal metropolitan elite, it’s a mantle he wears relatively lightly. Sure there are embittered jibes about how Brexit has made his personal freedom of movement a bit less frictionless, about the towering incompetence of Liz Truss and the habitual mendacity of Boris Johnson, especially over Partygate, but nothing much on the supposedly ubiquitous diktats of political correctness that are red meat to Suella Braverman and her ilk.

Radlett, a conservative Home Counties commuter town whose local MP is deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden might not be Barrie’s natural constituency, but he finds plenty of common ground with the audience here. For people of every political stripe recognise that Britain’s broken, even if everyone will have different bogeypeople to blame.

But one of the few plus benefits of the nation being a permanent skip fire is, as Barrie points out, the best comedy circuit in the world, based entirely on grumbling about stuff. That is the basis of his set, too, complaining about his lot as a middle-aged man coping, badly, with two young children, the misplaced male instinct to assume he’d be good at any new task tested more by parenthood than anything else.

He speaks in envious tone of the revolutionary socialist zeal of the French, with his invective sometimes veering into Mark Steel territory, but you suspect violent protest is something to be admired only at a distance.

There are no thunderbolts of insight in Barrie's set, but it’s smartly written, well-informed on the topical issues and keenly observed on the personal stories, from school plays to his vasectomy.

The jokes are crisp and his wearily exasperated middle-class liberal attitude well-defined. Meanwhile his urbane persona and deft delivery, polished over decades on the circuit, disguise the craft in apparently effortless conversation.

My neighbour in the audience told me she’d never been to a stand-up show before, but after seeing the supremely professional Barrie vowed to try to go every week. There can be no better endorsement than that.

» Alistair ​Barrie: Woke In Progress tour dates

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Review date: 4 Oct 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Radlett Centre

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