Whatever I was born, I’m now middle class: I hold my hands up and admit it. I like my pasta al dente and call the toilet, “the loo”. But what really marks me out as middle class is that I listen to Radio Four. Especially on Friday evening. I love the News Quiz, but I particularly love The Now Show. And The Now Show is always best when, less often than it used to now, it has Marcus Brigstocke on it.
If you’ve ever heard Marcus Brigstocke on The Now Show, you might of some idea of the force of nature he might be on a live stage. If you haven’t, I recommend you do, soon. That’s why I wanted to see him. And the fact is, he was certainly worth seeing.
The gig is in The Point, within Stockton’s ARC. I’ve never been before and have to say I’m very impressed. The building’s great and has a comfortable and quite surprisingly cosy atmosphere given its construction and its size. At bang on eight, on strolls Mr B, resplendent in a hideous pin stripey jacket (which does get discarded later), a white shirt, interspersed with flower patterns and terracotta-ish jeans of some description. I’m sitting about eight rows back with a great view. And he’s a big guy. he stage is quite small, but he takes up quite a lot of it.
This, he admits, is only the second night of the tour, having also played in Edinburgh this summer, so things might be a little chaotic, he warns us. It is just a touch, but that makes it all rather jolly. Brisgstocke does lean little to the left, and he seems to feel amongst friends to some degree with his material. It helps that he hits comedy gold early on, by finding some very entertaining people in the audience.
The show is ostensibly about David Cameron‘s Big Society initiative, and soliciting audience participation early on, he discovers a Conservative Party member and one of William “Billy Ten Pints” Hague’s election agents. As the show goes on he piles into those at the top of the coalition and the fundamental lack of empathy they have with most of us. Brigstocke claims some authority here, coming from the same class himself, though his contempt for them is withering and frequently venomous. As he deals with different issues, from education (and a shoeing for the “melty dwarf”, Michael Goooove) to disability amongst others, he solicits opinions from the audience and appoints those who respond as ministers for the issues in his Big Society government. He’s lucky. Apart from the young Tories at the front, he finds an eloquent HMRC minion to be chancellor, who wows us with her solution for the economic and banking crises. He does have a penchant for accents and mimicry, though his attempt at Teesside does make him sound a bit like Sarah Millican. And he’s not a bad human beatbox either.
One of the joys of listening to Brigstocke is hearing him get up a head of steam and head into a loquacious and spiralling tirade, hitting his targets with machine-gun intensity. He gets several chances to do this and each time he does is a joy. Another highlight comes when a woman in the audience wants to show him a classified ad from the Evening Gazette, shown left. It seems to take her forever to find the photo on her phone, but in the end she delivers. It’s worth it! He shares it with us all via Twitter later (he’s at https://twitter.com/marcusbrig).
He really is a man at the top of his game. He’s literate, impassioned and intelligent. But most of all he’s funny. Very very funny. I can’t recommend him highly enough as a live act. Please, go and see hi on tour if you can, you won’t regret it.