fri 20/07/2018

Rich Hall's Hoedown, Brighton Festival review - country comedy trumps hecklers | reviews, news & interviews

Rich Hall's Hoedown, Brighton Festival review - country comedy trumps hecklers

Rich Hall's Hoedown, Brighton Festival review - country comedy trumps hecklers

US comedian's country'n'western turn wins over a tricky crowd

Iron horsing around

Brighton is getting a bit above itself tonight. There’s a weird full moon atmosphere in the Theatre Royal, even though it’s not a full moon. At one point, Rich Hall makes a gag wherein he wishes the world were run by women, the brunt of which is that if war were imminent they’d get together, bond over swatches of desert khaki, have a Prosecco and there’d be no war. “You’re a dickhead,” shouts a woman’s voice, loudly, “Misogynist!” Hall makes a show of being astounded. Then another male voice pipes up from the circle, “We don’t like Theresa May!” (for she was included in Hall’s short list of international female leaders). “I’m just mansplaining,” he adds. The latter phrase makes me feel ill. Everything’s gone a bit odd.

Brighton is a wonderful, fertile island of green-left Bohemia amid southern England’s depressing sea of blue, but its inhabitants do the place no favours when they haughtily, stridently declaim puritan political correctness in the middle of a comedy gig by a man who’s very clearly on the same side of the political fence. The whole of the first half of the show, indeed, sees the veteran US comedian tearing chunks out of Trump and all he stands for. Clad in a grey fedora, jeans, faded red T-shirt and open blue shirt, looking like a whiskery, affably dishevelled and smirking high-end hobo, Hall comments on the US President’s current visit to the Middle East. “He wouldn’t know if he was in Saudi Arabia or Celine Dion,” he deadpans before a whole routine about Trump’s inability to spell the word “tap”.

After the interval, the "Hoedown" aspect of the evening kicks in. Hall reappears with guitarist/bassist Rob Childs and drummer Mark Hewitt, “two of the best musicians within their price range”. Having stuck it to America in the first half, he now wants us to learn to love country music, he explains, but not of the “I’d like to have a beer with Jesus” variety. The idea is that he takes audience members' stories and turns them into song narratives. Much of the humour comes from the juxtaposition of everyday British mundanit with classic country’s association with widescreen vistas.

Thus we have odes to IT man Gary, “the guy who can fix the porn”, Rory the osteopath, and a fabulous road song tribute to a female audience member’s journey back to Hastings along the A259. Hall is especially proud of fitting Pevensey into his lyrics. It’s both sharply improvisational and smartly funny, despite a number of audience members either failing to play along with his gags or attempting – and failing – to match him in smartarse responses. Hall acknowledges the strange vibe of the crowd but Brighton’s rep is saved by “Tim” from the front row who is asked to sing backing vocals to a number towards the end, and given a mic.

His performance is outstanding, singing and freestyling with panache and playing along with Hall, who’s clearly impressed. “Tim” receives one of the night’s biggest rounds of applause. After him, Hall says he need to “regain control of the room” and does so with a fabulous Bob Dylan critique, including hysterical misplaying of his harmonica, before disappearing.

Brighton has clearly had a long day having a few too many G&Ts in the sun, creating an atmosphere of unpredictability and narcissistic heckling, but Hall, ever the pro, simply uses it to add an extra layer of edge and freneticism to a night of solidly entertaining freestyle comedy and music.

Overleaf: Watch Rich Hall perform his Bob Dylan pastiche

Having stuck it to America in the first half, he now wants us to learn to love country music


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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