Stewart Lee at Eden Court, Inverness, 17/03/2015. A review.
I saw Lee play this same venue a few years ago on his If You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One tour. Then the theatre was, I’d estimate, about a quarter full. What a difference a couple of television series make, as this time it was almost full to capacity.
Not that the stage character Stewart Lee cared. He wasn’t long in laying into the audience for failing to be quick enough off the mark or for simply not being clever enough to understand his jokes.
If you were not there, or have never seen Lee (or are not a fan of what he does), you’re probably recoiling at this, because it’s all too easy to misunderstand his work when soundbites are quoted out of context. Lee is a master of his art. I’ve seen quite a few comedians in my time, and a LOT of live bands, but I have never seen a performer so absolutely confident and in control of an audience as Lee is.
During one section, where he was discussing urine at great length, Lee brilliantly and hilariously has one of his patented stage breakdowns and ends up shouting at the audience off microphone and blaming them for, well, I’m not going to ruin any of his routine here. But the point is the amazing way Lee leads to the audience to a place where they think the show is spiralling out of control and he has lost control of the room, but he effortlessly pulls it back again.
The routines themselves are, he explains, works in progress that may or may not eventually end up on his next television series. Because of this, the show lacks the strong narrative through line of something like his Carpet Remnant World show, but there is a lose connection between the sections, or at least I think there is – Lee is good enough to make me think that!
Aside from the above mentioned urine routine, he also touches on topics such Islamophobia – and how the Right Wing press regularly claim Left Wing comedians never address the subject. And in a routine that is an utter masterclass in comedy writing and building to a climactic punchline, he talks about English Nationalism and Paul Nuttalls of the UKIPs (although not the one you think). However, as he says in the show, whether this routine makes it to the television show depends on how well UKIP do in the forthcoming election. I hope they do exactly as well as is required, because this routine really does deserve to be seen by as many people as possible.
The show was well over two hours (I think! I was too busy laughing to be sure), but as we were told, most of this was our fault as he had to keep stopping and pointing out how we were wrong as an audience. And as the character Stewart Lee said at one point, “ You’re not equipped to review me.”
Maybe he’s right… maybe he’s right.
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