Ricky Gervais: Fame, Apollo Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

It may be indicative of the ever-growing cult of personality of Ricky Gervais that, two years ago, the warm-up gig before his national tour was held in The Soho Theatre's 160-seater auditorium, but this time around he has filled the 550-seater Bloomsbury Theatre and the 800-seater Apollo Theatre to stretch his performance muscles.

While the stage space might be bigger, the drill is the same: one portly comedian in blue jeans and a black T-shirt, a lectern and a very relaxed and engaging delivery. Perhaps a bit too relaxed on this occasion. Yes, the gig was a work-in-progress, and the ticket prices were reasonable, with the proceeds going to the Macmillan Cancer Trust, but the night never quite felt the wind beneath its wings and Gervais strolled through it, rarely breaking into a canter.

At the beginning of the show, there was some knockabout stuff about how much Gervais has done for charity and how he might one day have to order a cancer victim off a bed, protesting: "Oi, I paid for that!" Gervais then scored a number of hits on the subject of obesity, the newest charitable cause and a disease where "everything tastes good". Elsewhere, Gervais's ease and cheeky smile could not quite save modest routines about Hitler's genitalia and some lazy and oft-quoted gags on the issue of rape.

Moreover, a feeling of cruise control was actively detrimental to some material. I had read of a gag about the lurid services advertised on toilet walls and then pitching the same services to the BBC2 show Dragons' Den, a super notion but a gag that was fluffed and not given the life one would have hoped for on stage.

Though titled Fame, in reality the show should have been called Charity and Toilet, reflecting the two main areas from where the humour came. Maybe this was a blessing as we were spared too many in-jokes about celebrities, the double-edged gimmick on which his successful TV show Extras was built.

From watching Gervais's last stand-up show, Politics, go from work-in-progress to full tour, I can see that Fame will yet undergo a transformation. If past experience is anything to go by, then the odds favour a finished article altogether more punchy and pacy than tonight's performance.

Also showing on 7 December (020-7494 5070)