Ardal O'Hanlon, Richmond Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

"To wake the soul by the tender strokes of art" runs the quote from Alexander Pope on the proscenium arch of the Richmond Theatre. Ardal O'Hanlon has a reasonable go and finds that most souls are awake for his second half, if not all for his first.

Compared to looser and more louche contemporaries and countrymen such as Tommy Tiernan and Dylan Moran, O'Hanlon has always been a bit stiff. Largely this is because in between some free-form absurdism (suggesting to some Swedish friends that chopped up tomatoes put in your ear could give a similar buzz to snus) there are some very old-school gags, such as: "My father could never remember my name. 'Frederick! Sylvia! Sheila!' he would shout. I wouldn't mind but I was an only child."

There is something of the wide-eyed naiveté of O'Hanlon's character, Dougal, in Father Ted but mostly there is a slightly weary incredulity, or half-hearted optimism, that imposes a flow restriction. This befits O'Hanlon's often taut persona and is evident in a first half where routines are jumpy in their linking or too often segued with glib platitudes, like "we have to be happy" or "we should get to the point".

Get to the point he does, however, in a well-honed and themed second half that focuses on children without being mawkish. "I don't see the point in filming the birth. Filming the conception I can understand. But my wife didn't go along with that. So I didn't tell her." It is a joke that is saucily unsentimental but also a testimony to O'Hanlon's ability to pile reveal upon reveal. Elsewhere, he only needs one crack at a subject to get to the nub. "I haven't finished a sentence in 10 years" is how he describes the mantle of fatherhood, allowing the parents in his audience a fresh coat of gallows humour for their domestic woes.

Touring to 7 November (