Arts: It's far from over for laddism's nice guy

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Lee Hurst Wimbledon Theatre

The game's up for New Lads, critics are whispering. They think it's all over for They Think It's All Over.

There was precious little evidence of the decline and fall of the New Laddish empire, however, in the reception accorded to Lee Hurst's stand-up show at the Wimbledon Theatre on Thursday. His every gag was wildly applauded by a very mixed audience which encompassed both grannies and girlies.

On They Think It's All Over, Hurst's non-stop, over-competitive banter can get on your wick. But on his own with no one else to best, he is much more relaxed, able to run with his more inspired riffs without trampling over other people.

That's not to say that the whole show is as smooth as his trademark pate. Ironically, for instance, his closing routine about They Think It's All Over - along the lines of "oh, the laughs we have behind the scenes" - rather dragged. There were also sequences blue enough to bring a blush to the cheeks of the stucco angels strumming harps around the proscenium arch.

At other times, the show veered into childish material which chimed rather too readily with the primary-colours set and teddy-bears-and- balloons backdrop left up from the afternoon's Playdays stage-show. Did we need to hear about his bout of diarrhoea in quite such detail?

All the same, the majority of Hurst's act affords him the opportunity to show off his best profile as Likable Lee. Audiences warm to him as though he were that funny bloke from the pub who's just happened to wander on stage.

He got big whoops of recognition when he declared that "every bloke in this room will agree that buying a kebab on a Saturday night is the final admission that you're not going to pull. Even the kebab-shop owner joins in - `would you like chilli sauce on your no-sex evening?'"

For a man known as the most laddish thing this side of a stag night, Hurst is also capable of surprising subtlety. He imagined a yuppie on the phone flicking through his Filofax on the phone at the moment the IRA bomb at the Nat West Tower went off: "I've got a window in my diary. No, I really have got a window in my diary."

Whatever label is attached to him - laddish, childish, or just plain daft - Hurst is an undeniably accomplished and amiable stand-up. As an encore he generously ceded the stage to an audience-member who came on to propose publicly to his girlfriend. When she accepted from the front of the circle, Hurst proved his ad lib acumen by calling up to her: "There's a car available if you want to get away. We've got a safe-house ready. Salman's a really nice guy - you'll get on with him."

With that, he went off to the sort of cheers once reserved for World Cup-winning goals scored by another diamond geezer called Hurst.

Lee Hurst plays Northampton Derngate (01604 24811) tonight, and Plymouth Pavilions (01752 229922) on Monday.

James Rampton

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