Johnny Vegas: And Another Thing..., Manchester International Festival: Pavilion Theatre
Thursday 14 July 2011
There were a couple of noisy walk-outs in the second half of this new Johnny Vegas offering. They could just have been clumsy people anxious not to miss their last bus. Or they might have been from a TV shopping channel, or Leeds, two of the objects of Vegas's gratuitous insults.
He had vowed not to send up TV shopping channels in the show that mixes theatre and live TV, broadcasting part of the action live on Ideal World every night. Instead, he promised a play about how people function under pressure when their personal lives are coming apart at the seams. But the target of vapid consumerism was too enticing.
There are some fine comic performances. Kevin Eldon, who also directs, is the much put-upon but almost all-seeing floor manager. In the studio warm-up he is so quickfire it's difficult to spot where he breathes.
Emma Fryer steals the show as Vegas's wide-eyed ditzy brunette co-presenter, Lindsay, who is just about to overtake the blokeish star presenter, Bryan, by getting a solo spot selling figure-flattering ladies' underwear. But her perfect make-up and deadpan manner hide an engaging vulnerability. She prides herself on "a touch of self-deprecation but not enough to suggest low self-esteem" but is a deeply weird agoraphobic who lives in her dressing room.
The live TV link-up is more than a gimmick. It adds hugely to the adrenalin as the two presenters row furiously as the floor manager counts down to cameras going live and the short-delay TV monitors flicker on. It gives real edge to the will-he/won't-he after Bryan announces he will propose to Lindsay on air. But once the link-up is over the show soars into surreal sketch stratosphere where wild rhapsodic humour allows the audience to wilfully suspend its disbelief at the barmy ending. This is the fertile imagination of a comic who understands that fecund is not a four-letter word.
The piece does not have the depth and intimacy of Interiors, his 2007 show here, in which Vegas again played a mad, sad thin man struggling to get out of a jovial bursting frame, inviting an audience of just 30 into a suburban semi as he tried to sell the house to them. But it is very funny and the best non-children's show of the festival so far.
To 17 July (0161 876 2198)
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens trailer: The most extreme fan reactions on Twitter
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust