Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Robin Ince, polymath, comedian, writer and much-loved side-kick of Brian Cox on Radio 4’sThe Infinite Monkey Cage has a lot going on in his head. Maybe too much. In recent years he’s been upfront about his mental health, the multiple Robins in his head and his choice of career, treating it all as just more stuff to be interested in. Ince is manic, for sure, but there’s a sense that, having reached 50, he’s had the blinding realisation that life is probably now too short to do, read, watch, say and learn all the things he’d like to, and he just needs to speed up. This reviewer certainly has some sympathy with that.
Perhaps that’s why Ince expects to be able to rattle through 150+ images, each of which prompt at least one story. It’s an impossible task in which he sets himself up to fail. At the top of his Chaos of Delight show he promises that he’ll keep to his allotted time. Those in the audience used to Ince’s live shows laugh. The thing is, it’s now his thing. He’s the man with too many stories to tell, the man who wants to share so much he’s driving himself to distraction. A well-ordered show with a beginning, a middle and an end would be Ince off on a tangent. He IS the man off on a tangent.
Less fretting about the structure of the show would make things a bit less frenzied, in stressing out about it he stresses out his audience. He’s quick-witted enough and has enough great stories stashed in his head that he could deliver a different show every night and we’d be none the wiser. He could easily pick and choose from the slides in the huge powerpoint, telling whichever stories he fancies on any particular night, without revealing that he intended to use them all. Those unexplained images in between would just be a fun visual mystery.
That said, the things you do get are more often than not comedy gold. Chaos of Delight is, in an attempt to counteract the miserableness of the past couple of years, Ince’s big list of things that give him joy. He veers from stories about his eleven-year-old son and his octogenarian father to working with Brians Cox and Blessed. He loves the random recipes of 1960s cookbooks, overly dramatic horror B-movies and equally histrionic TV public information films. He tells us about Christopher Lee’s desire to be known as an opera singer rather that a horror star, and about Kafka’s large stash of 19thcentury porn. There are a just a couple of moments of calm. Ince inserts a couple of heartfelt poems, full of personal touches and sharp imagery. The very pace of them slows him down, relieving, for a short time, the frenzy.
Ince fails in his promise to keep to time. We get an extra twenty minutes at the end of the show to add to the ten he already stuck on at the start, while the audience were filing in. You can’t complain that you don’t get your money’s worth. Ince proves that everything is interesting if you look hard enough, and that there’s a great big dose of funny it a lot of it. You might just need to take a few deep breaths when it’s all over and the world stops spinning.
Reviewed on 10 March 2019 | Image: Contributed