Review: An Evening With The Fast Show, Adelphi Theatre

Review: An Evening With The Fast Show, Adelphi Theatre

At the start of An Evening With The Fast Show Charlie Higson suggested that catchphrases in themselves are not intrinsically funny. But through a combination of repetition and a talented performer saying them a phrase can become funny. Even, offered Higson hopefully, something as banal as "this weather won't last."

This casual remark set up a neat running gag in this reunion show marking thirty years since The Fast Show was broadcast on the BBC. All the surviving core cast were present to reflect on the past while a touching tribute was paid to the much-missed Caroline Aherne, with a montage of her best bits from Scorchio and beyond, shown onscreen.

Is the live gathering a shameless wallow in nostalgia? Of course it is. But it was also an opportunity to see how The Fast Show fits into comedy history. Various shows of a similar vintage, such as Little Britain, have been reassessed and don't seem quite as funny any more.

The Fast Show seems to have avoided the same fate. Some might say this is because it is so silly. And it is definitely silly – remember "Jumpers for goalposts"?, Whitehouse shouting "Brilliant!"? Simon Day and John Thomson first appeared onstage here as physical theatre clowns Jack Pot and Tom Bola throwing angular comic shapes. But there was also light and shade. Paul Whitehouse dusted off Rowley Birkin, who might have been very, very drunk but who also delivered some very, very touching monologues.

The first half mixed wig-heavy quickfire sketches with an account of how The Fast Show came together. Late producer Geoffrey Perkins made a snippets tape of Harry Enfield's sketch show for a press screening and mates since university Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse, who worked with Enfield, had a lightbulb moment - why not make a show consisting entirely of snippets. If one sketch isn't funny don't worry, another one will be along in a sec. They then put together the prize-winning team like a group of Marvel superheroes.

All the famous characters popped up during this gig - the last stop on their brief national tour. Mark Williams got a huge cheer for his 'You Ain't Seen Me Right' without even saying the catchphrase. Now that's comedy talent. Simon Day updated cockney eco-warrior Dave Angel and now sells hooky electric cars with a free Toblerone in the glove compartment. John Thomson almost stole the show twice - first with an unexpected Frank Spencer impression and then later with his jazz club host Louis Balfour. I hadn't realised he named musicians after London underground stations such as Leicester Square and Tooting Bec. Nice.

A little bit of seriousness was provided by Arabella Weir, who talked about the role of women in comedy. It was great that she and Caroline Aherne had proper parts and were not merely consigned to dolly bird bits. She shone on the show and here too, reprising "Does My Bum Look Big In This?" snarky make-up counter lady "No Offence", and other classic creations.

While the show was fairly lo-fi - no big sets, just performances at the front of the stage in basic costumes with a still image as the backdrop there was something here to please everyone, from the first-ever Ted and Ralph sketch, written by Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, to Higson as Swiss Toni, whose smuttiest verbiage was provided by Bob Mortimer. Needless to say Whitehouse and Williams revisited their inside leg obsessed "Suit You" duo to everyone's delight.

There were a few nods to the current decade and the passing of time. A quip about pronouns here, Whitehouse's 13th Duke of Wybourne now on Viagra there. But most of the material would have been familiar to everyone in the audience. No new characters, but there was that new catchphrase, "this weather won't last". Maybe the weather won't last, but The Fast Show certainly has. 



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