Frankie Boyle: I Would Happily Punch Every One of You in the Face, New Theatre, Oxford

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The Independent Culture

Who better, I thought, to shake us out of credit-crunch fatigue and the cuts commotion than the scything Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle? It's a last act of "kindness" before his early retirement from live performance, announced two years ago and which finally begins at the end of this tour.

I've been rendered near helpless by Boyle's relentless cynicism before and the title of this show suggested that he'd be administering a short, sharp, shock at the very least. Tonight, though, I find the shtick to be rather blunt.

Is it that I'm weary of that holy trinity of shock comedy: rape, paedophilia and masturbation? Largely yes, and I'm equally nonplussed by the repeated references to Susan Boyle and Madeleine McCann, two people with whom he has made almost as much hay as the tabloids have.

The Glaswegian's scattergun approach starts off as a kind of perverse Hello! magazine-style round up. So, making love to Heather Mills is likened to sex with "an evil pogo stick", Jade Goody's anatomical attributes are assessed and Jordan and Peter Andre's fight over the custody of their son Harvey is summed up with the verdict: "Eventually, one of them will lose and have to keep him."

The minor celebs dealt with, the bearded comedian roams back and forth. In a fertile patch, he goes from the Pope ("a paedophile facilitator") to John Leslie and Britain's recent war record of "killing shepherds" and building hospitals "for the next time we are back in town".

Behind Boyle's statement that he's "not a performance junkie" lies a lack of need for audiences to either love him or hate him. Neither extreme is likely to be provoked on tonight's evidence.

Touring to 15 December (