Reviewer: Laura Maley
A familiar presence at Manchester’s Comedy Store and recognisable from TV work such as Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, The Royal Variety Performance, Comedy Rocks and The Rob Brydon Show (for which he also worked as a writer), Hal Cruttenden’s latest north-west gig is just over the border at the Kings Arms, Salford. Part of Greater Manchester Fringe Festival (which runs until 31 July), the gig is a preview of his Edinburgh Fringe Festival show, Tough Luvvie, and as such the audience is suitably prepared for a work-in-progress.
Middle-class guilt is one of the themes central to Tough Luvvie, from a childhood at public school, to his take on last summer’s riots – and demonstrated perfectly to his reaction to being offered drugs on the street. What surprises me is the amount of politics in the show. It’s by no means a political show, don’t get me wrong, but it does touch on riots, poverty, student-led uprisings, Tony Blair and leadership personalities as well as Europe’s economic decline. All are covered with insight and hilarity. With some comedians you get the feeling such topics are covered to tick a box or with little understanding, but Cruttenden’s casualness is deceptive, and very cleverly done.
One of the best things about Cruttenden is his ability to tell a story, but also to veer wildly from his original story seemingly – and believably – on a barely related tangent, and bring it back, rounding it off with a camp song and dance.
The biggest disappointment – the only disappointment – is that the audience is tiny. This show deserves a much, much bigger audience. This is the third stand-up gig I’ve seen during Greater Manchester Fringe Festival and it has the biggest audience, I’m baffled as to why this is – each show has been very enjoyable. In fact, it’s such an ‘intimate’ show that Cruttenden speaks to each of us during the performance. This in itself though proves his uncanny ability to get a laugh out of anything, absolutely anything: gender equality, podiatry, comedy reviewers…
Tough Luvvie is a very well structured show, covering a huge variety of topics from really annoying twee Facebook statuses, to Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’, but all combining to show Cruttenden’s toughness and campness (campness-slash-vulnerability). Particular highlights are a candid section about becoming a Masterchef judge and a road rage experience – which perfectly combines anger and Cruttenden’s oh-so middle class classical acting training. Add it to your list if you’re going to Edinburgh, and be sure to book any show Hal Cruttenden appears in elsewhere in the country.
Reviewed on 10th July