Russell Brand performing stand up on the strangeness of the last 18 months: what have we learned and not learned? And how do you ‘get back to normal’ if you’ve never been normal?
Review by Jenni Balow
Do you like or loathe Marmite? How do you feel about the brand that is Russell Brand? This reviewer will stick with the Marmite, but be outvoted by millions when it comes to the worldwide fan base that follows the erudite stream of consciousness that flows uncensored and unchecked from the mouth of this man from Essex.
He briefly endeared himself with a bow to the granite stone that commemorates Rowena Cade, who founded the outdoor Minack Theatre 90 years ago, as he strolled, unhurried, down the steep steps of the auditorium on the opening night of his two sellout shows.
Brand, 46, was half an hour late, and his Gen Z and mainly Millennial audience had gone from chilled to chilly. There was no apology or explanation, and he made a cold start as he huddled under a blanket, sitting cross-legged centre stage, muttering about vertigo, all too close to a rocky ravine above the sea.
But he likes living on the edge, and after an uncertain start, punctuated by long pauses as he gazed out to sea, whether for inspiration or effect, he got most of the audience into a warmed-up state of Brand appreciation that saw them queuing on the stage for selfies and hugs, that, he observed, "got the Cornish variants rocking" during an over-long interval.
Tickets at £33.33 each, were, he told us, based on his lucky number, the 33 tattoes on his wrist, the number of vetebrae in the human body, and the age of Jesus when he died, among the many reasons for the title of his latest tour, and tickets were hot for the outspoken, often outrageous comedian with a vast You Tube audience.
He had done his homework on the Minack, with a tribute to Rowena Cade for her "phenomenal achievement" and vision for the theatre.
"It was one woman's mad folly, a glorious testimony to madness, creating this unique scenario."
Words tumbled out in appreciation of ritualised spaces, the mysticism of druidic space - "from the rock of life we hew our identities" and so on, and so on.
Within minutes he had moved on from the madness of Covid Lockdown, to conspiracy theories, the "carniverous sea" and a graphic account of acid trips resulting from his self-confessed "greed and impulsiveness", and his preference for "subjects that startle".
He was quick and clever, sipping coffee - "ah, my dark mistress" - and full of praise for the workers with the NHS - "what about giving them a proper pay rise" - winning cheers. And there were some amusing anecdotes about life at home with his kids.
But his mercurial mind at times ranged beyond the acceptable. Why joke about the family dog worrying sheep?
Weeks before the performance, Brand had sent out e-mails requesting the audience to share their best or worst traits during Lockdown, weirdest, naughtiest and most embarrassing things that happened, moments of shame etc. What a cheap way to find material for the show!
The second half was full of it, along with a rant about parties at No10, and a too-long reflection on an infamous trip to Barnard Castle. It was all rather tired, but many were laughing their socks off.
The show ran for three hours, twice as long as the schedule - by then, for this reviewer, it was well time for a slice of marmite toast - or even the chocolate chip Hare Krishna biscuit handed out to everyone on arrival - sustenance?