Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Starting his new tour on his own patch certainly pays off for Justin Moorhouse. With this lovingly celebratory show about being a Northerner, he’s delivering his freshly crafted material to a room full of people who know exactly what he’s talking about. To audiences farther afield there might be a touch of the charmingly exotic, to us in Salford it’s all beautifully reminiscent and familiar. And yet Moorhouse manages to do all this without the typically Mancunian swagger that he has a grudging appreciation of, and without sentimental nostalgia, in favour of story-telling that’s full of humanity and warmth.
He bounces onto the stage all smiles and looking like he’s loving every minute. Like he can’t wait to share his stories. And this is just the warm-up – in fact, it’s the warm-up for the warm-up. He does twenty minutes of gentle audience interaction (which makes the ‘what’s you name and where are you from’ format feel pleasantly cringe-free and like a convivial chat). He hits gold with a couple of the front row who met through an ad in a hiking magazine, declaring hearing their story the best thing that’s happened to him all day. They get a hearty round of applause from the already pretty warmed-up audience.
This is all the pre-amble to introduce support act Dave Williams. Suited and deadpan, Williams string of one liners – some of which are great – lacks the energy and geniality with which Moorhouse has set the tone. Williams deals well with a difficult heckler but the set is a disjointed of (mostly) sex jokes that fails to get the reaction that even Moorhouse’s off the cuff ramblings have had. The bar has been set just that bit too high.
The second half would be a tightly delivered hour of well-crafted and highly enjoyable comedy. But it’s the start of the tour and Moorhouse is yet to hone it fully in to shape. Instead we get an hour and a half that’s clearly his set plus all the equally good stuff that he’s had to lose. Lucky us. He rattles through subjects from veganism to Trump, his teenage daughter’s mood swings to the chaos Brexit. He weaves through all of this some beautifully told stories of growing up in an over-crowded family home and the highs and lows of living with his own kids.
Moorhouse is a man you’d really and truly like to have a pint with. He comes over as just plain nice. Full of fun and humanity, he exudes positivity in the face of the uncertainty that he faces in the world, in his country and in his own living room. He revels in making people laugh, and if the Lowry crowd is anything to go by, he’s going to make a lot of people happy with this highly enjoyable show.
Runs until 19 January 2019 | Image: Contributed