Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Bridget Christie’s recent Radio 4 series saw her at the top of her game. After years on the stand-up circuit with decidedly hit and miss shows that ranged from surreal nonsense to political rant, she seemed to have really discovered her own voice, delivering brilliantly cynical comedy that poked fun at her own liberal elitism in a world gone wrong. Bridget Christie’s Utopia, her “comic quest for her Shangri-La” turned out to be four weeks of top quality radio comedy, as she explored spirituality, the countryside, money and political disengagement as possible solutions to improving her current mood.
So there was bound to be good audiences for her tour, hot on the heels of the Radio 4 broadcasts. It’s a shame, then, that what we get inWhat Now? is mostly the same material that we so recently enjoyed on the radio, much of it delivered word for word. The first half of the evening replicates the Spirituality episode as Christie runs through her upbringing as a Catholic, her brush with the possibility of becoming a nun and her father’s unerring distrust of anything that looks vaguely scientific. It’s great material – but it’s already come to the end of its natural comedy life in mainstream media, and to be honest, it was much slicker when tightly edited for broadcast. So it’s a surprise to see Christie stammer her way through some of the jokes that she must have been perfecting for some time now.
The second half of the show does have more that’s new, although there’s still a reasonable smattering of stuff from Utopia. The new material is darker, and there’s even a bit of physical comedy, some of which has an improvised feel to it. Routines about Theresa May and Trump and an unpleasant meeting with a producer were probably considered too provocative for broadcast but work well with a live audience and bring back a bit of the political rant that’s always been a strong part of Christie’s stand-up in the past. She loads the second half of the show with a powerful feminist slant, and delivers a brilliant anti-consumerist tirade against Valentines Day.
There’s something doubly amusing in her tales of domesticity given that we know the husband she talks about so overtly (for those who don’t, Christie and Stewart Lee are comedy’s current power couple). Her excruciating routine about deciding what to have for tea could be happening in any kitchen, and being able to picture the scene she describes between these two gives it an extra layer of authenticity.
Christie rounds off the evening with a plea for honesty in a post-truth world. If her kids have taught her one thing it’s how to deliver a blatant lie, and she can’t help seeing parallels between their bare-faced fibs and the declarations of the leader of the free world. Truth as a solution to the world’s problems may just be the answer she was looking for in her search for Utopia and it ties this show up nicely, giving it all a sense of purpose and, ultimately, an upbeat feel.
There’s much to love here. Christie is definitely on a roll, but so much old material makes you feel a bit cheated.
Reviewed on 5 May 2018 | Image: Contributed