THE CRITICS : Michael Barrymore: out, back, and brilliant
Sunday 28 April 1996
Barrymore's high-velocity impact is such that all memories of this excellent supporting line-up are instantly banished by his arrival. Many have tried to bring a touch of authentic showbiz glitz to this notoriously glamour- resistant venue, but no one - not Barry White, not Lemmy from Motorhead, not even the full cast of Riverdance - has succeeded quite so absolutely as Michael does. His singing might make Des O'Connor sound like Jose Carreras, but his showmanship is unimpeachable. He does not just take the stage, he annexes it.
A human dust-devil of unparalleled intensity, Barrymore dispenses put- downs, one-liners and impromptu dance routines with a rapidity that must be the envy of the whole comedy constellation - pre and post-alternative alike. His Riverdance-in-flippers and Pope-with-a-swan-on-his head routines are worthy of Spike Milligan at his best. Because his material lives in variety time rather than real time (why else would the inevitable This is Your Life sketch feature Eamonn Andrews rather than Michael Aspel?), his best gags seem timeless rather than antique.
The true magic and mystery of Barrymore is how - combining the frantic demeanour of a commission-only used-car salesman with the cold and deadly stare of a garter-snake - he somehow manages to project such extraordinary warmth. Never having seen him before except on TV, where his bullish jocularity often seems to have a rather predatory quality to it, I had always assumed the much-vaunted Barrymore warmth to be a mythical quality - like the wit of David Gower or the wisdom of Nick Ross - but in a theatre there's just no arguing with it. The audience, tots and totterers alike, veritably basks in it.
The affection flows both ways, and it needs to. As Barrymore builds up to a transcendentally emotional finale, he repeatedly has to break off to interpret muffled shouts from the back of the auditorium. He looks truly vulnerable at these moments - as if one cruel impulse could be the end of him - but the cryptic grunts of his kind of people invariably translate on repetition into touching messages of support: "Keep your chin up Michael." Garry Bushell may not easily forgive those who force him to face up to the plurality of human sexual orientation, but the great British public have got more sense. From Kenneth Williams to Boy George, the nation has not had a problem with gayness among its variety performers and on this triumphant evidence, Michael Barrymore has nothing to worry about.
Life & Style blogs
'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
10 ways we damage our teeth – without realising
Facebook Messenger sends 'creepily' precise location data, as revealed by Marauders Map Chrome extension
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 3 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 4 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
- 5 Man jumps into bear pen at zoo, fights bear and loses
£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...