When the lights dim to anticipate Miranda Hart’s entrance on stage, there is a genuine “Ooh” the like of which hasn’t been heard since panto season ended.
This wave of enthusiasm from the Bournemouth crowd is reciprocated by Hart’s exuberance, a quality that is constant throughout the evening without ever becoming nauseating.
In her role of the overgrown schoolchild, the 41-year-old invites us to a “party” complete with buffet table (laden with treats including After Eights, or “chocolates in a sheaf” as she calls them) and balloons, albeit projected on a screen. Then there are the occasional bursts of disco hits including “I Will Survive” and, later, Whigfield’s “Saturday Night”, to which we are invited to join her for the hand jive routine.
Hart only lightly borrows from her TV tropes with some asides to camera and the briefest semi-catchphrase refrain of “bear with”. Her TV persona’s state of constant neurotic eccentricity is, understandably, shelved.
The content is, however, the same – a whimsical take on her ineptitude in the face of etiquette. One or two cheek kisses for hello? How does one speak to the “yout” of today when one likes to use actual words?
This is stand-up for those who have never seen stand-up. Inevitable comparisons to Michael McIntyre’s simple-but-effective shtick are reinforced by Hart’s own collection of silly walks.
While it sails close to the wind of inconsequential, the frothy concoction served up in Miranda’s “cocoon o’fun” is also deceptively heady. Her cavalcade of enthusiasms and idiosyncrasies gallop along at a pleasing pace.
Though always adept at making the apocryphal sound genuine, in the second half Hart has freer reign to personalise her routines. The audience participation ruses of the first half are dispensed with. In their place come more sustained sequences on embarrassing toddlers (a chaotic force for good) and annoying parents (an agonising but necessary evil).
The pervasive wholesome tone is one that Chummy, Hart’s character in BBC’s bedpan boiler Call the Midwife, would approve of. With little reference to alcohol or drugs and nothing riskier than a few double entendres and fart jokes, this is more than suitable for family viewing.
When not described through clumsy dating encounters on the dance floor, Hart treats sexuality as more a way to holistic confidence than a prelude to conquest. Though a little booty shaking doesn’t do anyone any harm, Hart’s celebration of Beyoncé’s attitude says more about her belief that life should be lived with the devil-may-care quality of a West End musical than about being “in your face”.
Self-deprecation aside, the lingering messages of the evening are ‘Keep it light, keep it positive, believe in yourself, and be good’.
The message may be light, the content equally so, but Miranda Hart is natural, winning and hard to resist.