The old Royal Theatre in Northampton is a great place to fill with a comic act that is too big for Screaming Blue Murder but maybe not big enough for the Derngate. In the last twelve months it’s hosted Jeremy Hardy, Shappi Khorsandi and now Marcus Brigstocke. You get all the benefits of a full house – great atmosphere, loud laughter – but in an intimate setting which brings you not only closer to the “act” on stage but also to their “victims” dotted around the theatre. Marcus Brigstocke creates a number of “victims” in this show – but rest assured, it’s all done very unthreateningly. To fill out the cabinet of his “Brig Society” government, he’s looking for ministers to fit the tasks ahead. Mrs Chrisparkle very nearly volunteered to be the Chancellor. Instead, the job went to Mr Brigstocke’s mate Shaun who he apparently met on the way to the theatre from the railway station. In any case, it’s a really clever way of involving the audience and gives rise to lots of unpredictable laughs.
But I’m running before I can walk with this review. A nicely edited sequence of soundbites concerning David Cameron’s Big Society and how the PM defines it is used to introduce Mr Brigstocke onto the stage; and we know straight away we’re in for an evening of intelligent and very funny left of centre comedy. He instantly gets a great rapport with the audience. He doesn’t seem to put on an act in any way; you feel that the person speaking to you is absolutely for real and saying precisely what he would say in the pub, or the privacy of his living room.
The “Brig” Society is a very creative idea for a stand-up assessment of the current government and the people who run it, but I particularly liked the fact that the whole evening wasn’t chained to that concept. There were plenty of times when he could take us away from it and talk about subjects like racism (which was hilarious and without the slightest hint of offensiveness), the Olympics, and The Sun for example; all of which he made relevant but which could also be taken as “stand-alone humour modules” in their own right. He’s at his savage best though when making a mockery of the “we’re all in this together” aspects of David Camoron (sic) and Gideon Osborne (also sic) and reflecting on the benefits of Eton College’s charitable status. I also liked his assessment of Jeremy Hunt’s (careful) legacy as Minister for Culture.
Without giving away all his material, there’s also some great observations about Smokers Outside Hospitals – which gets huge laughs of recognition, and a witty and hard-hitting lesson on banking and bankers which involves the movement of an alarming amount of cash around the theatre. Mr Brigstocke obviously had some fans in, as he was presented with a rather splendid oversized silk £10 note at this point, which was funnier than it sounds.
We saw Mr Brigstocke playing King Arthur when Spamalot came to Northampton in 2010 and indeed he came third in the category Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical in the much-coveted 2010 Chrisparkle Awards. On the strength of this stand-up he could well be in line for another award this year. An intelligent, thought-provoking and very funny show that reveals some truly ludicrous things about our beloved nation. All that, and a great selection of 70s Reggae classics played before and after to which Mrs C and I sang along. This tour is carrying on round England and Wales right up till Christmas. A must-see!