Reviewer: Jim Gillespie
The Lowry’s Quay’s Theatre provides the final venue of a 55 date tour for Marcus Brigstocke’s Why the Long Face? tour. It gives Brigstocke the last chance to fill his boots with a series of diatribes against the stupidities which have hallmarked 2016 for him as ‘the shittiest year in human history’. After the death of David Bowie, there was nothing left worth getting out of bed for. Certainly from the comedian’s leftist liberal perspective, the idiocy of the Brexit vote, the election of Donald Trump, the continuing rise of UKIP, the threats to the NHS and the Welfare State, all fuel the gloom and frustration implied in the show’s title. Marcus warns us at an early juncture that some may find his views challenging or offensive; true enough. Even some of those who share his standpoint might regard the invective as too aggressive.
There is respite from the soapbox ranting in the mockery of modern foibles. Targets here include vaping, nail bars, the fashion for gluten intolerance, juicing, advertising, sexism, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Brigstocke was possessed of the information that the recently uncoupled Ms Paltrow steams her vagina, and speculated on the means that she might employ for the task, before settling on a freshly toasted pitta bread. Brigstocke had found the universally acceptable butt; even the Brexiteers chortled.
Brigstocke is very much his own material: his passions and obsessions – his “bullshit” as he calls it – his politics, his family, his parents, his rage, his weaknesses, his pleasures. This show also lifts the veil on some of his vulnerabilities, including a very public declaration of culpability for the break-up of his long-term relationship. The resulting guilt and shame are not the common currency of comedy shows, but Marcus is unsparing. He fills his boots as full with recrimination as he does with ranting, and the experience can be equally as uncomfortable for some in the stalls.
After the interval, Brigstocke appears to try and stake out less controversial territory with a focus on happiness and gratitude. This leads to a cursory survey of attitudes to life at various ages, with testimony from the audience to bulk out the item. Nurses and teachers are praised, newlyweds cheered, and expectant mothers applauded. The insights are unsurprising, but are delivered pithily.
Tonight’s venue provides one unforeseen bonus, introduced by an audience interaction on musicals and some gentle ribbing of Elaine Paige for her self-promotion during her radio shows. Phil Jupitus enters in full costume, fresh from his role as the Baron from next door’s performance of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In keeping with the themes of Marcus’ show, Phil insists that he is wearing the new UKIP uniform, as laid down by Donald Trump’s new best friend, Nigel Farage. Jupitus’ appearance is brief, but it helps to lighten the tone of a show that otherwise threatens too often to forsake the silver linings for the clouds.
Marcus Brigstocke is witty and entertaining, and this show has moments of genuine hilarity. (No-one who hears Marcus compare sex with a new partner to an opthamologist’s vision test will ever be safe near an eye chart). He is also intelligent, opinionated, sensitive, perceptive, and uncompromising. As divisive, therefore, as those he criticises for being divisive. Fundamentalism comes in many colours.
Reviewed on 07 December 2016.