Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Few things are more irritating than an unexpected support act being added to the bill. Peter Brush, however, is a refreshing surprise. He has a laid back, almost hesitant, delivery and material with bright contemporary references and hints of darkness.
You couldn’t call Stephen K. Amos laid back but then the title of the show,The Laughter Master,proves he does not suffer from false modesty. It is hard to say, however, how far the show at The Lowry is typical of the tour. Amos acknowledges that it is all over the place – full of improvisation with the occasionally old favourite.
The first 30 minutes or so consists of a side-splitting improvised chat with the audience. Amos endears himself by slagging off neighbouring towns and mocking their eccentricities. He brings to mind Ken Dodd as both have an apparent effortless rapport that allows them to mercilessly mock the audience without causing offence. In Amos’s case he is adored – this seems the most popular part of the show. Amos is a generous host and genuinely loves moments when a heckler is able to catch him out repeating a comment he made earlier in the routine.
The issue of race runs through the show. Rather than project anger at past abuses, Amos is mischievous with a hint of rueful regret. The very well-spoken Amos recalls how Prince Harry commented that he did not sound like a ‘black chap’ and regrets not replying that the Prince did not resemble his father. He explains how the TV mini-series Roots helped to define the identity of his generation; but then again the options were not wide –he could hardly relate to Love Thy Neighbour.
When Amos gets around to the formal scripted part of the show, he addresses the issue of conflict but spins off at so many tangents he never really reaches a conclusion. Much of the humour arises from societal changes between the generations. Amos exaggerates his amazement at being handed a drink by a white man – how things have changed.
Amos acknowledges that The Laughter Master is self-indulgent, he persists in adopting accents even though he is hopeless at them. When a routine doesn’t secure the expected response he painstakingly breaks it down clarifying the meaning of certain words and phrases. It’s funny the first time but much less so the second.
One hopes that the performance at The Lowry is typical of the tour and that other venues will get the chance to appreciate work of this quality. Both the audience and the star agree that the show has been ramshackle but special.
Reviewed on 24January 2016 | Image: Contributed