Sarah Millican is yet another big name comedian that Mrs Chrisparkle and I don’t really know very well, although I have seen her on television a few times and thought that she came over as a very cheery and cheeky Geordie lass who told it like it is. She certainly knows how to attract the punters as I don’t think there was a spare seat in the house and we had to book our tickets a year and a half ago. That’s some fan base she’s got there.
She presents her act in a simple, straightforward way; no supporting performer, no light show, no comedy songs, just Ms Millican centre stage with a stand-up mike and a bottle of water. And, my word, can she make you laugh. She has a delightful mix of self-deprecation and assertiveness that occasionally tumbles into aggression, mainly if there’s the threat of removal of food. She’s extremely talkative; she’s not one of those comics who will go any length of time with some physical mime comedy – you sense she’s the kind of person who couldn’t let a silence go without filling it with speech. So her stories and material are delicately put together and highly structured, and delivered to a set pattern that probably changes very little from gig to gig. My guess is that she’s honed the act to perfection, and she’s not going to stray much from the template.
But that’s fine, because her material is absolutely first rate. The basis of the show is about being a Home Bird – after many years of renting and flat dwelling she has decided to buy a house, and she’s got lots of great material about viewing houses, the responsibilities of house ownership, what sheds are for, and so on. But this is just a springboard for all sorts of general comic observations. She takes on all the things that happen within a relationship and teases the humour out of those situations, with, I would expect, no subject taboo. To look at, she seems like a nice, respectable lady – possibly a schoolmistress or a doctor’s receptionist, or something similar; and then she will shock you with a discussion of how lady parts change colour with age or how you can’t talk to your mother without needing to poo. She also swears quite a lot, which can take you by surprise if you’re not expecting it.
In many respects she reminded me of Victoria Wood in the 1980s, when she was at the top of her game. With sharp, knowing material, she is confidingly northern about the intimacies of everyday life, how to cope with a husband and parents, birthday treats, clothes shopping (a lot of nice material – if you’ll pardon the pun – about how pyjamas are now lounge leisurewear), her affinity with cats, and so on. She has Ms Wood’s ability to make you recognise those little moments we all experience and blow them up into major comic events.
She breaks off every so often to get feedback from various sections of the audience on a hot topic. The first hot topic was how to deal with half-live half-dead furry animals that your cat drags in; the second was what items you would choose to take with you on a dirty weekend. I guess breaking off like this gives her vocal cords a small chance to regroup every so often – because she really is very talkative indeed – but it also gives her a chance to come back with some great reactions to the suggestions shouted out by the crowd. Quite a risky strategy I suppose, but a challenge to which she is certainly capable. Many of the comments shouted back out to her were pretty inventive too! It also added a personal touch to her material, giving us all a chance for a little two-way banter.
She told us that when we left the auditorium we could collect a free badge, saying either “Home Bird”, or “Dirty Stop Out”. I’ll leave it to your imagination which one I took. A really well-structured and funny evening with someone who is 100% in charge of her talent; a true masterclass in stand-up. She’s touring until May but my guess is that if you haven’t already booked, you’re probably too late.