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Russell Brand, Hammersmith Apollo | reviews, news & interviews

Russell Brand, Hammersmith Apollo

Russell Brand, Hammersmith Apollo

Superb show that deconstructs the cult of celebrity

Russell Brand in full messiah mode on his mammoth international tour

Russell Brand, as I've written before, divides the room. Well, not the beautifully refurbished 3,000-seat Hammersmith Odeon in London, where his faithful gathered for the past two nights on his mammoth international tour, but more generally. There are those who find his – and I use the word deliberately – cocksureness irritating, or his loquacity a ridiculous affectation.

Myself? No on both counts. Here is a man whose enjoyment of his sexuality is brazenly, comically played up, but like a little boy who has discovered his penis for the first time rather than some leering fool who wants to debase someone with it, and somebody for whom the English language is a thing of beauty, to be adored.

The title of his latest show, Messiah Complex, is clearly designed to annoy his detractors even more, but such annoyance, I'm sure, would make Brand smile. He's self-aware enough to be ahead of them, and he has done enough work - as a recovering drug addict he's probably had more therapy than most - to forgive them their trespasses. Again, that's a deliberate choice of words, as Jesus Christ is one of the four great leaders in history Brand talks about in this superbly entertaining, intelligent and engaging show - Malcolm X, Che Guevara and Mahatma Gandhi being the others (with Adolf Hitler getting a mention too).

The comic is as at home with high art as he is with popular culture

Brand knowingly suggests that if in hearing him talking about these four great men the audience makes the unconscious connection that he shares some of their virtues, then all to the good. But it's cleverer than that, as he points out their shortcomings, too. He says Gandhi allowed his wife to die rather than be given Western drugs, but then proceeded to take them himself just weeks later, while Guevara often smelt rank because he rarely changed his shirt. Malcolm X, too, had some very dodgy attitudes to women, while JC... well, that could take all night.

The comic is as at home with high art as he is with popular culture. In an opening section where he goes into the audience to engage with his fans (although those who are really keen to engage with him are politely but swiftly dismissed) he references both fellow Essex-ites and Nietzsche. But he assures us,  “Don't worry, it's not part of the show. It's not some Brechtian experience."

When the show proper starts, Brand riffs on the dishonesty of advertising, the culture of celebrity (“I'm aware of the hypocrisy”), and deconstruction of the Daily Mail's “values”. They're all easy targets, to be sure, but covered very amusingly with a refreshingly original take (including his own experiences) that elevates arguments we've heard before, while his extended riff on why Jesus would be an advocate of gay sex - complete with some vigorous physical comedy to match the verbal gymnastics - is worth the entry price alone.

Messiah Complex is a brilliantly conceived show, and its 90 minutes fly by. The finale, a tour de force about the joys of having sex with women in which both parties have equal pleasure, peaks with an inspired callback to end the show. By then, though, just about everybody in the room – male or female, gay or straight - had gladly submitted to Brand's charms. And that, surely, is what having messianic qualities is all about.

  • Russell Brand is touring until 6 April 2014
The title of his latest show is clearly designed to annoy his detractors


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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