tue 17/09/2019

Frank Skinner's Credit Crunch Cabaret, Lyric Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Frank Skinner's Credit Crunch Cabaret, Lyric Theatre

Frank Skinner's Credit Crunch Cabaret, Lyric Theatre

Monday-night West End cabaret is cheap and cheerful

The watertight theory behind the Credit Crunch Cabaret is that we all need cheering up, above all on Monday nights. Frank Skinner compered 10 of these start-the-week-for-a-tenner variety nights earlier in the year. He returned last night for another 10-Monday stint. Variety was still on the agenda: it’s never not going to be the case that in a bill with four acts, some are going to be funnier than others. Much funnier.

Skinner noted that there were some empty seats near the front, a possible indication that the financial downturn is itself on the wane.  He still found more than enough victims to feed his pleasing facility for weaving a narrative out of random information, or in this case not so random. Almost everyone he picked on either worked in theatre or in music. “Is there no plumbers in?” he wailed in the second half. These tickets are so cheap even people working in the arts can afford to come.

It’s been a theme of these shows that Skinner is also undergoing his own personal credit crunch. Once never off the telly, now he’s rarely on it, but the truth is that he has always been more at home standing up and staring at his shoes than sitting down and grilling guests. He can swear for one thing, with a carnivorous relish for the Anglo-Saxon poetry of navvy lexicon. But a curious thing has happened to him now that he is introducing younger acts.

There is something of the dignified paterfamilias about him these days. Where once he mostly told jokes minted in the lavatory and the bedroom, now he will find as many laughs in restraint. During an improvised Devon routine, the word “fudge” came signposted with a “please step this way for the gutter”, but no. “Not doing that joke,” he said, and got a bigger laugh as a reward. He also never used to do quite so many accents – from Cilla Black to Jimmy Stewart - and nowadays he even accompanies himself on the banjo. In short, he’s morphing in front of his audience into an old-fashioned entertainer. He’ll be replacing Bruce Forsyth before you can say, “Nice to be racist, to be racist, nice” (which was Skinner’s topical opening line).

Of the rest of the bill Gareth Richards struggled, like many younger comedians on the circuit, to win anyone over. There's something not quite weird or miserable about him to underpin his pity-me shtick. Ali McGregor would have seemed a lot funnier in the intimate environs of the late-night show where Skinner came across her on the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Her act consists of operatic burlesque with naff electronic accompaniment. On a sober Monday night, there’s only so much mileage in ripping the piss out of Anastasia and Madonna.

If you’ve got a short slot, it helps to have funny bones to start with. Rob Dearing was, true to his name, a more endearing musical comedian, deploying an electric guitar and a gizmo for recording tape loops to produce punchier comic riffs. But the show’s utter highlight was Simon Brodkin, who came on in baseball cap and trackies as his chavvy alter ego Lee Nelson. There was only one joke – an exceptionally bright disposition found in a walking, stalking exemplum of Broken Britain. "How can it be my fault my kid's out of control?" he says in South London demotic. "I'm hardly ever there." Ignorance is bliss.

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