Alan Partridge review: Stratagem at the O2 Arena is excruciatingly bad at times

Partridge is inherently a low-rent, low-status character who thrives most in the glamourless intimacy of a North Norfolk radio booth. It was always going to be a struggle on such a large stage

Trailer: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

There’s always been a bit of cult mentality surrounding Alan Partridge. Much like Monty Python before it, Steve Coogan’s comic creation is stalked by a parade of his own greatest hits, from deliberately cringe-inducing catchphrases (“Aha!”, “smell my cheese”, etc) to recurring bugbears or specific pop cultural neuroses. OK, “cult” is probably too strong of a word, but it’s fair to say that Alan Partridge: Stratagem arrived to find the O2 London a cathedral of the converted.

In Stratagem, Coogan deploys his obnoxious alter ego as some kind of motivational speaker – though this premise is only attacked with the woolliest sense of conviction. He walks out on stage to a re-lyricked version of “We Built This City” by Starship; this then segues into a mercifully brief Hamilton riff. From there, he embarks on a number of comic skits, sometimes involving video projections, sometimes involving on-stage guest stars.

One skit sees Alan travel back and forward in time through the “magic of theatre”, interacting with past and future versions of himself. Another sees him snoop on his assistant, Lynn (Felicity Montagu), who appeared via pre-recorded video, prompting whooping from the audience. And there are several more musical numbers, the last few of which seem entirely laugh-free.

Partridge is inherently a low-rent, low-status character who thrives most in the glamourless intimacy of a North Norfolk radio booth (on Sky series Mid-Morning Matters) or in the small-town surroundings of I’m Alan Partridge. It was always going to be a struggle adapting the character for such a large stage – though Coogan has done similar before, when he included the character in his 2008 stage show Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters.

There is maybe 45 minutes of enjoyable material in Stratagem – enough to bulk out for an Edinburgh show but nowhere near enough for a two-act arena gig. As the show goes on, the jokes seem increasingly obvious – weak digs at British media personalities; lazy, innocuous swipes at the royal family. One gag about the GoCompare advert feels nearly as old as Partridge himself.

But again, maybe this is the format working against the material; plenty of similar jokes in Mid Morning Matters land perfectly well. Perhaps it has to do with the illusion of spontaneity. Here, with Alan surrounded by dancers and in front of 20,000 people, there is none whatsoever. The audience is generally subdued towards the end of the show; some jokes completely fail to provoke a reaction. There are whole skits that become excruciating to watch.

In his many TV ventures, you can’t help but pity Partridge, a character who, through his own hubris and ineptitude, is always the butt of the joke. Watching the character strut and sing before a stadium of cheering fans, you suspect the joke may have been lost in translation.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in