Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Simon Day’s In Character show on a Sunday night at The Lowry has drawn a disappointingly small audience. There’s a surprising lack of atmosphere in the first ten minutes of his character comedy set, despite him kicking off with one of his oldest, best-known characters – The Fast Show’s pub bore, Billy Bleach. Day stumbles through a bunch of jokes and Billy’s trademark booze-fuelled tales – plenty of funny material that falls rather flat through delivery that just doesn’t hit the mark. Perhaps Day’s just having an off night, or maybe these characters are just becoming a bit too over-played. Bleach jokes that he’s not far off retirement – from a life of unemployment. Maybe it’s time Day retired Bleach.
Things step up a notch with Day’s second character. Geoffrey Allerton, Yorkshire poet, who we first met in Radio 4’s Down the Line (and later in the TV version, Bellamy’s People). Allerton delivers his poems, reading from an old notebook, interspersed with amiable chat. The brilliance of Allerton is that he, and his poems, might just be the real thing. Amongst the comedy there are touches of poignant observation on life and love.
After the interval – two more characters from more recent shows. First up, unnervingly threatening criminal Tony Beckton, followed by one of Day’s most recent creations – Brian Pern.
Even though Beckton has had a lot of airplay, in The Simon Day Show, Down the Line and Bellamy’s People, Day manages to keep up the character’s energy and deliver some great material that sometimes makes you wonder if you should be laughing quite so much. Day is big, well-built bloke, and in black trousers and a tight black t-shirt he manages to make Beckton’s life of crime seem chillingly plausible. His attempts to stay out of jail by dealing with his anger issues make for disturbingly funny comedy.
Day keeps the best until last. Brian Pern is a clever and affectionate parody of Peter Gabriel, created by Day’s long-time collaborator Rhys Thomas. After the success of his 70’s Prog Rock band Thotch, Pern is spending his later years exploring world music and experimenting with found sound. Pern, accompanied by a guitarist, sings a few numbers and talks about his career. He’s hilariously earnest and tremendously likeable. It’s clear that Day is still having some fun with this one – and he seems extremely comfortable in Pern’s skin. The songs, like Geoffrey Allerton’s poems, teeter on the edge of credible. Following Brian Pern; A Life In Rock Rhys and Day rather short-sightedly killed Pern off in a Segway accident earlier this year, prompting the BBC Four mock-documentary A Tribute. Day gets over this with an allusion to having had to disappear for tax reasons. It seems like Pern, unlike some of Day’s earlier characters, still has a lot to give, so long may he live.
Reviewed on 8 October 2017 | Image: Contributed