tue 19/11/2019

Andy Hamilton, Brighton Festival 2019 review - gently amusing night of reminiscence | reviews, news & interviews

Andy Hamilton, Brighton Festival 2019 review - gently amusing night of reminiscence

Andy Hamilton, Brighton Festival 2019 review - gently amusing night of reminiscence

Comedy writing perennial spends an evening answering audience questions

Hamilton - definitely not the musical, as he reminds his audience

Taking place at the Theatre Royal, Andy Hamilton’s show is entitled An Evening with… rather than a straight stand-up and mainly consists of the comedy writer/performer and gameshow regular answering audience questions. During the first half this is done via raising a hand and shouting out questions; during the second half by leaving pieces of paper on the stage front during the interval. This isn’t, then, a riotous evening of laughs but more a gentle one of easy Sunday night chuckles, with Hamilton as much a raconteur as a comedian.

The stage-set is simple, a mic, a table and a chair. Hamilton, clad in fawn Chinos and a Hawaiian shirt, says he will use the chair to lower himself to collect the paper questions as his knees are giving him grief. They clearly are, and he plays on it. At one point he simply stops, knelt, looking uncomfortable, leaning into the chair and announces that he might just do the rest of the show from there. It gets a laugh. They come easily from a partisan audience who clearly adore him. They’re mostly senior, apparently well-versed in Hamilton’s long career, especially his mass of work for BBC Radio 4, and respond with familiar amusement when he says that he now self-defines not so much as heterosexual as retrosexual.

He’s especially good on politicians met on 'The News Quiz', their blankness and 'missing quality'

For those not versed deep in Hamilton lore there were times when things could veer into the arcane. This writer confesses to never having even heard of his cult radio series about Hell, Old Harry’s Game, but it doesn’t matter too much. He repeats Stephen Fry’s redefinition of the word “countryside” from I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue – “killing Piers Morgan” – and then chides us for enjoying it more than his own gags.

He answers questions anecdotally and at length about his involvement in Drop the Dead Donkey, Outnumbered and Have I Got News For You, and there’s a good aside about his role voicing Dr Elephant, the dentist in Peppa Pig. It has apparently encouraged children to be less afraid of dentists but, he suggests, this surely backfires as soon as they’re in the chair, presented with a human rather than an elephant. He’s especially good on politicians met on The News Quiz, their blankness and “missing quality”, drawing particular attention to Edwina Curry.

At one point he shows a clunking disconnect when an audience member refers to YouTube news satire creation Jonathan Pie and he clearly doesn’t know who that is, but it’s of little consequence. The evening is topical, with smartly observed pieces on the Change UK Party, Boris Johnson and Danny Baker’s recent Twitter car crash, to name three of many, but it's as much biographical. He leads us around his 40-plus years in comedy, right back to the BBC writers room of the 1970s and even before, revelling in a story about subversion in Harrods basement packaging department where he once worked.

It’s difficult to see how he will end the evening with any kind of climax, given the ramshackle, chatty structure that occasionally seems almost too laid back, but he just about manages it by attempting to whip us into a new populist party, having us shout out ridiculous slogans about Emperor Hirohito, the new party’s audience-chosen proposed hate figure, before closing the show with a preposterous "folk song". He doesn’t pretend to be anything but a cheery, sharp-witted 64 year old but his company is genial enough to make that simple proposition work.

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