thu 23/03/2017

Eddie Izzard, Palace Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Eddie Izzard, Palace Theatre

Eddie Izzard, Palace Theatre

Surreal comic kicks off his West End run

Eddie Izzard's use of language is virtuosic in his deconstruction of the history of civilisation

Eddie Izzard tells us at the top of a show lasting two-and-a-half hours that he's on the home straight in a mammoth tour taking in 28 countries. He first performed Force Majeure in 2013 and now, in a slightly rebooted form, he parks it in the West End for an extended run as Force Majeure Reloaded.

Izzard has ditched some of the weaker elements but the core - his deconstruction of the history of civilisation - remains the heart of the show. He nails his colours to the mast quickly – he puts his trust in people, not in authority figures or religion – and God himself is presented as an ineffectual bloke with a high-pitched voice, an iPad he can't use properly and a son who speaks with an estuary accent in order to get down wiv da kidz. There are some subtle put-downs of politicians, too, slipped in as asides.

The stories of two despotic figures from history – King John and Charles II – provide much of the more obvious comedy among the vaulting language and surreal storytelling which, in its breadth of content and frequent recalls, is like a verbal pinball machine. “Charlie two” was that bloke who started the fashion for wearing dogs on the head (which is where the breed King Charles spaniel comes from, obviously), while King John didn't read the small print in the Magna Carta, thus condemning himself for ever to be the baddie in Robin Hood adaptations.

Most of the evening involves Izzard in imaginary conversations with people throughout history, from Caesar (“Did he ever think he'd end up as a salad?”) to the UK's early empire-builders deliberately mistaking the upset natives' protestations for words of welcome. It's a presentational style that can get tired – even tiresome - pretty quickly and the comic, always a mumbler anyway, frequently stumbles over material that he must be able to deliver in his sleep at this point in the tour. It has to be said, though, that some of the show's gems, including Izzard's version of the Lord's Prayer (“For thine is the kingdom... the cheese and the cheeseboard, the fish and the fingers...) and the list of Caesar's acolytes, including Spatula and Tenacious, will never get old.

Izzard interrupts himself several times to tell us how this joke or that routine went down in Paris or Berlin, and there are a few bilingual elements in the evening – all very well if you understand French and German, rather annoying if you don't – but let's allow the man some self-satisfaction for his bravura use of language.

In the second half, the mood changes as Izzard, unusually, delves into his personal history to talk about his twin teenage obsessions of pilfering make-up from the Bexhill branch of Boot's and his ambition to serve in the SAS. It's an unexpected and rather touching element in the show, and I would have liked more, but Izzard is soon back to the surreal ramblings, pulling together the many elements of his story in the accomplished finale.

One admires the virtuosity of it, but is it as funny on the stage as it is on the page? Hmm, not so much. Amusing, clever and accomplished, certainly - but providing disappointingly few laugh-out-loud moments.

Eddie Izzard is at the Palace Theatre, London W1 until 20 February

The mood changes as Izzard, unusually, delves into his personal history

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Explore topics

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 £2.95 per month or £25 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