thu 17/10/2019

Dara O Briain, The Playhouse, Edinburgh | reviews, news & interviews

Dara O Briain, The Playhouse, Edinburgh

Dara O Briain, The Playhouse, Edinburgh

A seamless series of comic peaks from the likeable Irish stand-up

Dara O Briain: a honed pro to his very fingertips

The fact that the latest in a long line of Dara O Briain DVDs is already on sale on Amazon is pretty impressive considering that he hasn’t recorded it yet. I know this because the second show of his four-night run at the Playhouse happened to be the one immediately before the gig being filmed for a timely pre-Christmas release. If it captures the warmth and verve of last night’s show it might even turn out to be one of those rare comedy DVDs worth buying.

Nearing the end of his long Craic Dealer tour (Tesco raised objections to him naming the DVD after the tour, apparently concerned it would promote hard drug abuse), O Briain showed no sign of road fatigue. Far from it. He assured us that a combination of almost-home euphoria and a sense of eve-of-recording release meant, in so many words, that “anything could happen”.

My, how the man talks – sometimes to a breathless standstill

Well, it didn’t really work out like that. The promised descent into anarchy and abandon never quite materialised. O Briain – a honed pro to his very fingertips – isn‘t really that kind of comic. He’s not remotely cutting edge, or terribly profound, although his running gag about the soft-sexism of “something for the dads” TV culture manages to smuggle in a serious subtext, and there is a mildly risqué riff on racism.

His chief attribute is the plain fact that he is immense fun to spend a couple of hours with. On stage O Briain is very much the same character we see on Mock The Week (pictured below), only with many more fecks and a greatly increased pace of delivery. My, how the man talks – sometimes to a breathless standstill.

Essentially benign, he exhibits a beguiling sense of the ridiculous. In the early part of this show he manages to deconstruct the standard stand-up shtick without undermining it, running the audience through the “rules of engagement” and handing out pointers about which jobs work best for front row audience interaction (fireman and baker are good, apparently, as they cover both childhood innocence and sexual role play. Happily, last night he stumbled on his first baker of the tour, which prompted much rubbing of thighs and muttering about tiger bread).

There was a little local flavour, focusing inevitably on the trams fiasco - turning the city into “a living museum of gridlock” - alongside some neatly-turned views on his homeland. These included an astute observation about Ireland’s transformation from an essentially agricultural nation to an IT-based culture (“Look at our lovely soft hands”) and the impossibility of a teen raising a full scale riot on an Irish landline in the 1980s.

Now 40, married with two young kids, O Briain inevitably veers into child-centric material, though he does so without sentiment; the highlight is his imagining of various non-PC alternatives to the tedium of the Christmas nativity play. Elsewhere, he sallies into spiels about the perils of sharing the live circuit with TV psychics, engages in “nerd fights” against Dettol’s no touch hand wash (a gag he retrieves to fine effect in the encore) and reveals an ingenious system of delineating astrology and astronomy. A line about “two-sided toast“ brilliantly illustrated how our empire of new technology is built on the sands of our own complete ignorance.

He can think on his feet, too, coming up with two or three genuinely off-the-cuff quips which were so quick half the audience missed them. Two hour plus stand up shows usually experience the odd longueurs; O Briain had precious few, although an overlong routine, involving the audience, about ways of dealing with a burglar didn’t quite spark into life.

But mostly Craic Dealer is a seamless series of peaks. On current form, it would be hard to think of another mainstream stand-up who could match him.

On current form, it would be hard to think of another mainstream stand-up who could match him

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.