Tim Minchin, Royal Albert Hall, London
Monday 02 May 2011
"Nothing ruins comedy like arenas," sings Tim Minchin in his opening number.
Except, this isn't just comedy – this is a show of witty stand-up, warm storytelling, tender tearjerkers, righteous ire and rock-star pretensions that, some dodgy sound issues aside, more than lives up to its arena billing.
Minchin's charisma and talent have never been in question and in this opulent venue 4,500 or so people see those superstar qualities mushroom. That opening line is the first of many gigantic knowing winks given to the audience to let them know that despite his hiring of the Royal Albert Hall and a 55-piece orchestra to bolster his cheeky and intelligent comedy numbers, he is still the same old Tim. He knows this is a potentially hubristic exercise, but such ambition led him to turn Roald Dahl's Matilda into a musical and that has critical acclaim in the bag and a West End run to come in the autumn. The guy is on a roll.
There is a triumphant air to the gig, which mixes new and old. The irony is that the subtler songs and the between-song monologues work best. What a time to find out that less is more. The showstoppers – "Tumour", the "Let Me Entertain You"-esque "Dark Side" and rock odyssey "Cheese" – don't feel like showstoppers, as Minchin's densely packed witticisms are drowned beneath reverb and orchestra. The more the players strive, the more you have to strain. You can't quite kick back and enjoy the ride, until a little moderation is adopted.
The show survives this. The second-half opener, "Prejudice", which relies on surprise for the joke to work, stands up to repeated listens and is wonderfully, lightly orchestrated. It is followed by the highlight of the show, a delicate "Lullaby" that reveals the darkest thoughts of a parent towards an unruly child. The poignant "White Wine in the Sun" and "Not Perfect", close on a non-comic, gratifying note.
Minchin continues to push outwards and continues to pull it off. Later this year he will return to the Albert Hall, as the first comedian to participate in the Proms. It is a smart move for all involved. Arenas suit him rather well.
Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Lego letter from the 1970s still offers a powerful message to parents 40 years later
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Strictly Come Dancing results: Steve Backshall sent home after dance off with Sunetra Sarker
Tom DeLonge compares streaming music to killing elephants
Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked clip of Lana Del Rey rape video
Band Aid 30: 'Do They Know It's Christmas' storms to number one
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Green Party Caroline Lucas interview: 'We could be on the edge of something very big'