Comedy: The loser's a winner

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The Independent Culture
LEE EVANS has his critics. He is Jerry Lewis crossed with Jim Carrey, only more irritating than both, say some. Or, worse still, according to others, he is Norman Wisdom without the laughs.

Certainly, Evans has elevated playing the fool into an art form. From the moment he bumbles on stage and bumps into the microphone stand, you know that you are in the presence of someone who in an Elizabethan court would have been wearing a cap and bells.

But audiences feel they have found a kindred spirit in this comic who so obviously revels in failure. He appeals to the idiot in us all. A nervy jitterbug who often apologises after gags, he trades in those distinctively British currencies: embarrassment, incompetence and inadequacy.

Not for Evans the swaggering, cocksure arrogance of the laddish uber- stand-ups so beloved of the glossier men's magazines. Even an apparently simple act like pushing a luggage trolley turns into a farce. Last night, he failed in a jokey attempt to hang himself when the chair he was standing on gave way.

Later he poked fun at the idea of such a humble fool performing in the surroundings of a West End theatre: "I was going to put stone cladding and a satellite dish on the front."

The two-and-a-quarter-hour show had its longueurs and there was more discussion of bodily functions than in the entire Starr report. Evans admitted that routines about shopping and flatulence are hardly going to topple the Government. "It's not about anything," he shrugged. "I don't come on and say, 'We should march on Buckingham Palace'."

But you have to admire a man who puts so much into being a dork. Within minutes of taking the stage last night, he was sweating so much he was delighted when someone threw him a towel.

Clowns are frequently tragically unfunny, but you get more energy and entertainment from one inspired Lee Evans mime than from a whole big top full of men with red noses. Mesmerising, manic, mad, he is a one-man confederacy of dunces.

Until 21 November (0171-494 5582)