fri 13/12/2019

Romesh Ranganathan, Brighton Dome review - transgressive, edgy and very likeable | reviews, news & interviews

Romesh Ranganathan, Brighton Dome review - transgressive, edgy and very likeable

Romesh Ranganathan, Brighton Dome review - transgressive, edgy and very likeable

The TV favourite hits the ground running at the start of his Cynic's Mixtape tour

Possibly pondering what taboo subjects to attack next

One question springs immediately to mind on hearing that Romesh Ranganathan’s new stand-up show, The Cynic’s Mixtape, is touring: how does he find the time? Ranganathan has overtaken Jack Whitehall as Britain’s most media ubiquitous comic, with a deluge of TV shows and appearances, a column in the Guardian newspaper and even a recent autobiography. However, his TV CV is hit’n’miss, which leads to a second question: can he still cut it in the live arena?

In short, yes, he can. With able support from Jake Lambert - who is heckled by that rarest of creatures, a Brighton Brexiteer – Ranganathan is on for a portion of the first half and a whole 50 minutes after the interval. He adopts a combative approach to his Brighton audience, making hay from the fact he comes from Crawley, just up the road, a town Brighton is traditionally snobbish about. He jovially mocks the staunch round of applause that greets his gag set-up supporting the right to breastfeed in public – “only in Brighton” - and challenges the city to call its pebbled shoreline an actual beach.

Clad in a buttoned navy jacket over a pale blue shirt, with jeans and loud, white hi-top trainers, Ranganathan looks slimmer than he has been, a fact he draws attention to, mercilessly using his own fitness regimen to attack the social culture around gyms and physical training. His stage persona is lairy, and he’s unafraid to push to the limits of what’s acceptable, notably during a section about Michael Jackson that teeters right on the edge, and another deconstructing the Millwall football song “I’d rather be a Paki than a Scouse”. Just when he reaches climactic moments of transgression or apparent belligerence, he punctures it all with a grin or giggle, highlighting the comic silliness at the heart of the shock factor.

What surprises most is that some of the biggest laughs of the night derive from Ranganathan’s mastery of physical comedy. He’s brilliant at it, whether utilising the microphone to illustrate the gradual waning of male sexual desire or doing a grotesque “lion hunting a gazelle” imitation of horny nightclub blokes approaching women on the dancefloor.

Much of Ranganathan’s set is devoted to his family, from a lengthy opening yarn detailing his response to losing one of his children on a beach, wherein he makes us accomplices in his preposterously outlined disregard for child care, through to a pinpoint accurate dissection of the changing nature of sex in long term relationships that's as much uncomfortable – for those of us in them! - as it is funny. Then again, he’s just as able to pull back and have fun pulling Fireman Sam to pieces.

As he reaches the end of the night he pulls his themes together in a way that’s crafted and clever, dazzling his audience, but at the same time ensuring the laughs are still coming. He closes by pointing out that, in fact, he loves Brighton, it’s where he played many early gigs: he’s only been messing. But we knew that. He may have sharp, acerbic edges, but Romesh Ranganathan’s comedy is marinated in decency and common sense.

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