sat 11/07/2020

Simon Evans, Blackheath Halls review - a big reveal worth waiting for | reviews, news & interviews

Simon Evans, Blackheath Halls review - a big reveal worth waiting for

Simon Evans, Blackheath Halls review - a big reveal worth waiting for

The comic's most personal show yet

There's an explanation of why Simon Evans's eyes have been replaced by Robert Powell's as Jesus of Nazareth

Simon Evans is a comic known for pithy observational humour, and an often acerbic take on politics, with occasional bits of biography thrown in. But The Work of the Devil (which started life at the Edinburgh Fringe last year as Dressing for Dinner), is his most personal show yet, and all the better for it.

The reason for the reboot is that, as audiences will discover, the story he tells has had to be updated, and here, in its touring form, he tells the tale over two hours rather than a more festival-friendly 60 minutes. This means the comic can lay a series of clues throughout the first half of the show, all to be picked up and polished after the interval.

The clues – explained in the jaw-dropping last 20 minutes of the evening – start with the show's poster, a picture of which is on the screen onstage. Evans tells us that his eyes have been replaced by those of Robert Powell as Jesus of Nazareth. But then when he says he wants to talk about identity politics, tribalism and intersectionality, it throws us off the scent.

Where is he going with this edgy material? He draws a parallel between gender self-identification and self-accreditation for mortgages back the 1990s (“because that went so well”), and recounts a reworked pub joke of three new fathers – one English, one Welsh, one Pakistani – and a mix-up over their babies in a maternity unit. He's on thin ice with the latter, but the punchline, and his expert deconstruction of the joke, square matters nicely.

He was an only child, he tells us, an unusual thing for his generation (he's in his early fifties), but now it's the new normal, as 40 per cent of families are single-child households. (There are a lot of facts in this show; Evans does like a good fact.) His was a happy childhood, so no trauma there, although much of modern life, on the other hand, is designed to make him feel old and technophobic. He tells a wonderfully involved story about his forgetfulness, and links it to his comedy hero Billy Connolly's diagnosis of Parkinson's. Again, these are seemingly unconnected anecdotes, but...

Evans, despite being able to work himself into a lather about much of modern life, says he has tried to educate himself about some of the most contentious issues we face; equal marriage, transgenderism, nationalism and intersectionality, and the right of people to disagree with the prevailing view on those or any other issues. He presents a balanced case, although often with tongue firmly in cheek.

And then, things start falling into place as he describes a health check he underwent last year and the consequences for him – and his family – when the results came back. Evans has taken his time getting to the show's main reveal – but, boy, what a reveal it is, and what an evening of comic storytelling he weaves.

  • Simon Evans is touring until 16 May
Evans, despite being able to work himself into a lather about much of modern life, says he has tried to educate himself about contentious issues

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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