Comedy review: Sarah Millican - 'As interesting to watch as she is funny'

Hammersmith Apollo, London

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The Independent Culture

To watch Sarah Millican is to watch a box of comedy fireworks going off in all directions, most whizz and bang, but there is the occasional damp squib. The 38-year-old sanddancer (a native of South Shields) employs a wealth of gag and dramatic constructs in her show, making her as interesting to watch as she is funny.

Home Bird plays further on the already entrenched domesticity of Millican, her main themes being, moving from a flat to a house (“I want to go upstairs to bed, not through a kitchen”), cats, cooking and cohabiting - all pursuits and interests that, she says, will help her slow down her pace of life. Not that 138 tour dates will leave too much time for Millican to relax in her M&S stay-at-home leisurewear.

No one is completely taken in by Millican's homespun matronly charm, of course, we know full well that butter would indeed melt in her potty mouth. At points she leaves the audiences gasping with shock, for example at her frank assessment of her “claggy” areas or of those of others.

As with previous shows, the homespun wisdom of her immediate family brings to bear a more traditional hue on her anatomical observations. “She couldn't stop a pig in an alleyway” is the likely description Millican's mother would give to the leggy pop star Rihanna.

The paradox of sauciness and innocence plays off itself throughout, allowing Millican to make poignant departures. She tries to reconcile Margaret Thatcher's hand in creating Mr Whippy (the actual ice cream, not Douglas Hurd) with the ex-PM's role in devastating her local community. This follows directly from an emotive routine where Millican describes discovering that her former husband wooed her with a Coleridge poem passed off as his own.

Sometimes when she eases off her joke salvos and flourishes, and ceases topping her topper jokes, she doesn't meet with the same success. An extended anecdote about visiting Warwick Castle with her boyfriend is genuine, but short on opportunities to build to a satisfying pay off.

Elsewhere, Millican blends the actual and the apocryphal with practised ease, gaining our trust with both her humanity (subconsciously imparting gossipy tips for happy relationships) and her inclusive questioning of the audience.

Audience participation Millican-style has always been a precise, pre-meditated affair, but it usually pays dividends. What to do with half-dead animals the cat brings in is a question that shows up the audience as the deviants, rather than our host for a change, similarly what to take on a dirty weekend is our chance to 'shock' Millican.

So much more vibrant than her BBC TV show conveys, Millican's life experience still weighs heavily on her work, particularly her divorce and her grasp of the working week and our need to seek comfort away from it.

Some of us demand our politicians have prior real-life experience. Millican is a case for the same argument to be applied to comedians - evermore the pundits we look towards to make sense of the world, whether that world goes much beyond the garden gate or not.

Tours until: May 24, 2014