Reviewer: Jo Beggs
From Drop The Dead Donkey to Outnumbered, Have I Got News For You to Old Harry’s Game, Writer and Comedian Andy Hamilton’s career has hardly faltered in the past forty years. There’s a sizable number of Radio 4 listeners in The Lowry for the Salford stop on Hamilton’s Change Management tour. You could probably guess it even if he hadn’t asked for a show of hands. Hamilton doesn’t look at all surprised. He’s created a show that delivers just what this audience might expect. There’s hardly anything in the live experience that wouldn’t be broadcast-able (except a short routine in the second half in which he discusses the need for the occasional expletive in everyday life – illustrated with a smattering of examples) and there plenty of the kind of comfortable, good natured humour that makes Hamilton such a great TV comedy panellist.
Hamilton, now in his early sixties, has created a show of anecdotes and musings that loosely hang together to illustrate his dislike of change. Looking back at a childhood spent playing on bomb sites, he charts the rise of fear and paranoia in society, laments the stranglehold of technology on the young, and muses on a society where you can make up one-off names for your kids. Hamilton is certainly in ‘grumpy old man’ territory, but his take on the modern world is shot through with an intelligent thoughtfulness, and you get the impression he’s always ready to hear the counter-argument. His glass really is half full and half empty at the same time.
Hamilton doesn’t dwell on his illustrious career which would be an easy sell and would surely provide plenty of material. Instead, a few BBC anecdotes are balanced with everyday stories – things he’s overheard on the tube, stuff about his kids, even stories other comedians have told him (with a particular nod to the fabulous “late, great” Linda Smith). Hamilton throws in some political jokes for good measure. Although some of this material might be a little old, it’s woven into the overall theme nicely, charting the demise of colourful politics and taking an ‘if we’d known then what we know now’ glance at the party politics of the past twenty years. There’s some less direct, but equally heartfelt swipes at the media and at advertising, and the powerlessness of the individual to effect any of it. He talks about recent events without really passing judgement – about the sacking of Jeremy Clarkson and the subsequent for and against social media battle that ensued, about Blair’s recent re-emergence in the media.
Despite not having a smartphone Hamilton clearly constantly keeps on top of current affairs, checking the news in the interval (tonight’s headline is that too many bacon sandwiches are even more bad for you than you already thought), and although the show is clearly pretty tightly scripted there’s room for some flexibility to keep things fresh as he manages to squeeze in a handful of ultra-topical jokes.
There’s plenty of laughs in Change Management, it’s two hours of reliable, cosy comedy. Hamilton is a likeable, entertaining comedian, but, as with the TV panel shows that Hamilton frequents, it’s all pretty throwaway, and there’s little here that will be memorable by next week.
Reviewed on 26 October 2016| Photo: Steve Ullathorne