Lyme Regis may not be the most exciting place to be on a wet evening, but the atmosphere was certainly buzzing at the Marine Theatre. The town lies at the western edge of Thomas Hardy's Wessex and was a fitting place for his namesake, Jeremy Hardy, to entertain an appreciative crowd.
His opening "conversation", for that is what Hardy termed much of his performance, took a light-hearted look at his role as a comedian and his lack of celebrity status. Hardy was aware that the audience was mainly composed of ageing Radio 4 listeners and that hardly anyone else would know who he was. The crowd, however, was familiar with his brilliant wit from shows such as The News Quiz, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and the philosophical Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation.
The jokes came thick and fast during the two-and-a-half-hour performance, but there was also room for some serious moments. Hardy revealed his deeply held political and social views, and urged the audience to take more notice of young people's achievements rather than their failings (though he did manage to raise a laugh or two at the same time).
With his heart on his sleeve, he had a dig at the empathy many of us try to express for those with Alzheimer's disease (which his mother has) by pretending that our senior moments and short-term-memory losses are in any way on a similar scale.
He was also scathing about the way Channel 4 has moved away from its early promise with its current freak-show programmes and popularising of the term "property". He wondered what was wrong with the term "house". You don't get thrown out of your property when you can't pay the mortgage, you lose your home, for heaven's sake.
Hardy's repeated use of expletives might have shocked the parts of the audience who are used to his more controlled appearances on Radio 4. He was aware of this, but explained that it was how he spoke in normal life and that, as he was having a conversation with his audience, he had decided to speak in his natural conversational voice. He wouldn't, of course, use the same language when speaking to his mother or doctor, and had the audience in fits of laughter as he illustrated this point in his own inimitable manner.
At the show's end, the crowd still wanted more and Hardy returned for a bittersweet encore, recounting jokes he had heard from two of his close friends, Humphrey Lyttelton and Alan Coren, both of whom died in the past year and are obviously missed.
Richard Cousins, retired teacher, Lyme Regis
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