Live Review: Miles Jupp, Bloomsbury Theatre

Live Review: Miles Jupp, Bloomsbury Theatre

Miles Jupp is one of what seems to be an ever-growing band of gigging comedians who are talking about their recent brushes with death-by-ill-health. There's Richard Herring, Rhod Gilbert, Laura Smyth and Janey Godley. Plus, coming up, Matt Forde and Mark Steel, who as satirists may or may not bring their recent cancer treatments into their next shows. 

Jupp's story is not a cancer journey but a brain tumour journey. While filming an episode of Trigger Point on 2021 he suffered a seizure. He was rushed to hospital and a few weeks later he had to return to have a growth removed. His show, On I Bang, is not stand-up but hilarious, poignant storytelling, 90 minutes of brilliantly droll comedy about staring mortality in the face and getting annoyed by his wife's untidiness. There are no anecdotes from his time fronting kids' TV show Balamory, he warns his fans.

As Jupp's pre-amble explains, the night consists of two stories, a short and a long one. The short, scene-setting one revolves about a family holiday in Wales and his inability to squeeze into a neoprene swimming suit while one of his many offspring relieves himself in the background. Is the splitting of the swimsuit a foreshadowing of the later splitting open of his head by his genial brain surgeon? Possibly.

His account of the actual seizure is relatively brief. Perhaps because Jupp, looking very elegant onstage in a suit and tie, cannot recall a great deal. Sudden flashing lights, the floor moving at speed, everything going strange, then in an ambulance hitling to A&E. What he does make a point of mentioning is that it could have happened at any time. Driving with the children, when he was alone. If it was bad luck to have a brain seizure it was incredibly good luck that he was on loaction where there was first aid on hand and a hospital nearby.

The meat of the story, however, is the operation to have the growth removed. It was a procedure not without some risk, but as with Richard Herring's recent show about testicular cancer, there isn't really a cliffhanger because we know by the fact that he is performing i nfront of us that he survived. So it's a tribute to Jupp's storytelling skills that we are still totally drawn in.

All of this happened during Covid, of course, adding another level of edginess to everything. Jupp had to have a Covid test before being admitted and also an MRSA test, which turned out to be somewhere between a Covid test and that reliable comedian's fallback, the prostate test. Needless to say Jupp has an original take on where and how far he had to stick the swab.

There's also the small matter of having a catheter fitted, which despite the pain of insertion (cue mass wincing from male members of the audience), felt "fabulously decadent." A running gag is his fondness for drinking. Maybe he should look into having one fitted permanently.

This is monologue comedy at its finest and most eloquent. Not a word is wasted, whether Jupp is painting a verbal picture of the domestic chaos he has to deal with at home or the hgh drama in surgery. The operation happened quicker than expected, he explains, because they had a "cancellation". What, he wonders, might causes the cancellation of a brain operation...

Jupp was planning to return to live comedy before this incident, but his close call has certainly given him something to get his teeth into. The contrast between his mild-mannered delivery and the horrific experience he went through adds another layer of humour. But beneath the cool, calm approach, there's also an appealing hint of pedantry and potential for intolerant rage. The rage comes through in particular, when he is asked, for the umpteenth time to test his faculties, which US President was assassinated? 

On I Bang is a terrific show. If you close your eyes you can imagine it as the perfect Radio 4 play. But it could easily be a television drama too. Lest we forget, Miles Jupp is an established TV actor. And we should be grateful for that. If he hadn't been on set when this happened he might not be here today.

Touring. Dates and tickets here.

Miles Jupp onstage picture by Steve Best

 

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