Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Well, that’s different. The stage lights rise forChubster on the unexpected sight of Hal Cruttenden not so much dad-dancing as dad-miming to the theme song from Disney’s Frozen. All of the over-emotive gestures are captured in a perfect straight-faced routine as if Cruttenden was auditioning for Strictly Come Dancing. The idea for the opening, like the title of the show, came from the comedian’s daughters who he describes as beautiful on the outside but twisted on the inside. It is a surprisingly physical start for a show in which the humour is otherwise entirely verbal.
The opening is not, however, the only surprise in Chubster. Cruttenden describes himself, not inaccurately, as a ‘softie’ being plump and with camp mannerisms and a high-pitched voice. He does not, therefore, seem the most likely comedian to tackle dark subjects yet most of the topics in the show are likely to provoke a sense of unease amongst patrons.
Cruttenden tackles subjects like suicide, obesity, the death of loved ones, inappropriate relationships due to age differences and the appropriation of the death of celebrities for personal pain in the same casual chatty manner he reserves for discussing rugby. Cruttenden’s style is to introduce a topic, nudge close to the point of offence and then, like a naughty child who cannot resist temptation, go that bit too far.
Chubster is punctuated by moments of the comedian staggering backwards in mock horror at what he has just let slip. Throughout the show Cruttenden draws attention to his refusal to make a joke of his wife’s origins in Northern Ireland before concluding with a routine that drags out every possible cliché. It is not racist he assures the audience it just feels that way.
The imaginative nature of Cruttenden’s observations, however, helps ensure that offence is avoided. Situations are pushed into the point of being ridiculous with football violence turning into initially a mid-life crisis then a homo-erotic mating ritual. Cruttenden even dares to mock the politically correct approach of the venue where he performs by pointing out that it does not really matter if he says that The Lowry is in Salford or Manchester as, outside of the area, no-one has heard of the former.
Brexit has become a major thorn in the side of comedians most of whom voted to remain but are aware that they may be performing in parts of the country that supported leaving. They tend, therefore, to tread carefully or to avoid the subject altogether. Cruttenden, on the other hand jumps in with both feet boasting about his status as a member of the liberal metropolitan elite and outlining ways in which areas that voted Brexit can be made to bear the brunt of the consequences of leaving the European Union. You almost feel the need to assure him areas outside of London always get the short end of the stick.
The camp ‘oh aren’t I naughty’ style of presentation enables Hal Cruttenden to explore dark subjects and to challenge the opinions and possibly prejudices of audiences without becoming confrontational. It is hard to remember a show that is so potentially offensive being so very funny.
Reviewed on 6 October 2018 | Image: Contributed