Rob Newman, Brighton Dome, Brighton

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The Independent Culture

Ever since I first saw this continually improving show I have been anxious to write about it. But where to start? A question that I am sure Newman himself must have asked many times when he was sorting through his massive amount of material. Though From Caliban to the Taliban: 500 Years of Humanitarian Intervention veers off at tangents, the central premises are that violence and suffering are prerequisites to capitalism, and that geopolitical concerns are the first motive for war - the justification (or indeed the fabrication) for what comes later.

Before he takes the audience on a whirlwind tour of history, Newman aims obligatory pot shots at a beautifully mimicked George Bush and, with a little help from Dad's Army, suggests that Saddam's mysterious Fedayeen in Iraq were no more of a threat than the Home Guard.

Newman's comic range is, in fact, well used in this show: impressions, comedy songs, surreal creations and so forth all help the medicine to go down - no mean feat given that his subjects include the colonisation of Virginia (exporting Jacobean Johnny Rottens to America), the strategic importance of Persia/Iraq in the First World War, the US's sustenance of the economy of Nazi Germany until 1942, and the "myth" of Winston Churchill (as exposed by Richard Burton).

Just as there are killer facts (for example, the US has been involved in military action every year, with the exception of 1892, since 1798), there are killer gags (the Queen's land is our land but has been taken from us by "theft, murder and the clever use of hedges"; LBC's reporting of the recent war in Iraq apparently used the "scene of terror" in Mosul as a link to a traffic report; and Franz Ferdinand's death can't have caused the First World War because "no one can be that popular").

Yes there are pauses, for effect and otherwise, and occasionally his lines are garbled, but these imperfections don't detract. If anything, they lend charm to a political polemic delivered by a man all kitted out for the class war.

Like Bob Dylan, whom he satirises for playing corporate gigs, Newman offers no answers. He is lukewarm about the anti-war march in February and about his own efforts at direct action. Judging by the flyers advertising his new book placed on the Pavilion Theatre seats before the show, Newman hasn't forgotten the rules of the game, either.

However, along with other in-demand political comedians such as Mark Thomas, and veterans Mark Steel and Jeremy Hardy, Newman helps both to raise the level of political debate and more than a few laughs.

Rob Newman is touring to 30 November. For remaining dates and venues, visit: http://www.micaelita. net/robnewman/

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