Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Frank Sinatra used to open his gigs by gazing at the audience and wondering aloud what all those people were doing in his room. One half-wonders if Phill Jupitus is taking the line literally. As the audience enters The Lowry, 20 minutes before the curtain goes up, Jupitus is already on stage with his back to them listening to records. He ends the gig in the same position as if he has no reason to leave, being already at home.
Juplicity has such an unusual format that, when the intermission is announced, Jupitus has to reassure a skeptical audience that it really is the interval and not just another gag. Mind you, Jupitus does not take a break but prefers to wander through the theatre, in the persona of his tour manager Susan, chatting with patrons and taking selfies. It is almost intimidating to find a comedian who works so hard.
Jupitus is his own support act, opening in the persona of Porky The Poet. Although Jupitus acknowledges the influence of John Cooper Clarke, there is little of the rapid vocal delivery or surreal outlook of The Bard of Salford in his style of presentation. Porky’s poems are charming and more than a little nostalgic; gently bemoaning the fact that characters in the Beano, like all of us, must age. There are autobiographical aspects with Jupitus reminiscing about how a dream gig of supporting Madness on tour turned sour.
The main surprise of the evening comes towards the end of Act One. Jupitus invites the 30 members of The She Choir of Manchester onstage to perform Acapella versions of 1980’s pop hits and joins them for a cover of Talking Heads’ Once in a Lifetime. Even for a show that is hardly conventional an entirely musical interlude in what is, after all, a comedy gig is memorable.
Act Two opens with comedy musical numbers. Owls Are Bastards is, well, a hoot but a parody number (in which the words ‘Coldplay song’ rhymes with ‘five minutes too long‘) is a bit obvious.
Phill Jupitus is a gracious host who seems to really appreciate the support of his audience and enjoys interacting with them. In the second Act, he allows a degree of grumpiness to creep in. He is incredulous that Channel 4 producers overlooked his obvious physical qualities to select a former teammate from Never Mind The Buzzcocks to host The Great British Bake Off. ‘He eats nothing but pollen and love!’ complains Jupitus.
Yet, joking aside, Jupitus occasionally comes across as ungrateful. Act Two is essentially two long shaggy dog stories in which Jupitus recounts his misadventures in receiving an honorary doctorate and his spoofing a pair of American birdwatchers. The stories are screamingly funny, but Jupitus genuinely does seem ill at ease in meeting with academics and his blasé response to their honouring him with a doctorate seems a bit mean-spirited.
Jupitus acknowledges that he has yet to work out how to bring Juplicity to a satisfactory conclusion but still manages a fine encore with his thoughts on the differences between fathering girls rather than boys. The eccentric approach taken by Phill Jupitus makes Juplicity stand out from other comedy gigs and is well worth sharing his usual outlook on life.
Reviewed on 17 March 2018 | Image: Contributed