Review – Russell Kane, Smallness, Warwick Arts Centre, 9th February 2014

Russell Kane - SmallnessRussell Kane is yet another of these BBC3-type comics with whom we’re not that familiar but thought we’d risk paying to see them live; although he was not completely new to us as he co-presented the rather good “How to Win Eurovision” show on TV last year. So we suspected we would like him, but we weren’t sure.

Omar HamdiHowever, before we got to meet Mr Kane there was a support act in the form of Omar Hamdi, a young Welsh-Egyptian comic, who, unsurprisingly, traded somewhat on his unusual background, but still had a lot of entertaining material about culture clashes and some good general observational comedy. I thought once or twice he trod a delicate line where he almost invited the audience to (as Avenue Q would have it) “be a little bit racist”; but he knew what he was doing and it was all good-natured stuff. Part of his “warm-up” job is to find out if there were any overseas members of the audience – which information would be taken up by Russell Kane after the interval and woven into his act. Sadly, we only had a Mexican and a Belgian – I think they were hoping for more. I was going to suggest Mrs Chrisparkle put her hand up but she hasn’t lived in Australia for 27 years, so I thought it might be stretching a point. Plus she would have killed me.

After Mr Hamdi’s 25 minutes, we had an ice-cream-fuelled interval (I was driving, after all) and then awaited Mr Kane. What a little powerhouse of fun and energy he is. He’s one of these comics who never stays still for a second – always pacing about, doing balletic twirls, lunging and jigging. When Michael McIntyre does that it really gets on my nerves because it looks unnatural; but when Russell Kane does it, it’s so intrinsically him that you guess he just can’t stop – it must be his body’s way of releasing some amazing amount of pent-up energy inside. In his skin tight black leggings (it’s not a great look, to be honest) he reminded me of a young Max Wall, not that he really incorporates silly walks as a part of his act, they just happen incidentally.

Not standing stillThere’s also an interesting duality to his persona. Whilst he looks and acts quite camp, and his usual speaking voice is rather soft and gentle, there is also an underlying air of ruffian to him, which surfaces when he’s imitating working-class London/Essex guys (which he does a lot). He talks a bit about his background, and that his father was a bouncer and by all accounts quite a hard man, and you can see he’s inherited streaks of that in his personality. So that soft/rough combination gives him a really fascinating edge. You sense he’s the kind of guy who is at ease talking to all people – any background, any class – which is definitely a gift when it comes to having a great rapport with the audience.

The theme of this tour is “Smallness”, although to be honest I’m not sure it’s that strict a theme, more like a general framework on to which to hang some (but not much) of his material. “What is it with us Brits and smallness?” is the question he poses. “Watch him ejaculate (his words not mine) thoughts about smallness; on keeping things small when life gets big.” I’m glad he doesn’t allow his material to be constrained just to this theme though, because his natural enthusiasm for taking a subject and running away with it makes him one of the funniest comics we’ve ever seen.

Russell KaneHe can so easily identify that moment of recognition with the comic potential of an ordinary everyday situation. For example, what other nation’s population, when they hear a glass being broken in a restaurant or bar, would deem it appropriate to shout out “W**ker!” with the appropriate hand gestures. The French? “Eet ees unlikely”. The Germans? “Vy do zay do dat?” Nope, just the Brits. The Mexican and Belgian in the audience agreed that when they go on holiday abroad and they overhear another group of Mexicans or Belgians talking, they would go up to them, introduce themselves, and have a nice holiday chat. The Brits would do the complete opposite – “oh my God, they’re British, don’t talk to them, don’t make eye contact, run away…” When you go up to an American and ask them what they think of their home town, the inevitable answer is that it’s “awesome!” (Or rather, “ossom!”) Do that to a Brit, and they’ll say “it’s sh*t”. Unless you’re in Manchester, of course. He has lots of excellent Manchester material, much of it centred on his Mancunienne fiancé and her strangulated accent.

R KaneBut it’s not only these international observations where he excels. He’s great at noticing those little things that really irritate in relationships: like Group A sleepers, who can nod off anywhere anytime, get a full ten hours and awake all refreshed and bunny-like; and Group B sleepers, who snatch a few moment here and there, toss and turn all night and wake up knackered. How many Group B sleepers are there in the audience? I put my hand up. How many of you are sleeping with a Group A sleeper? I kept it up. All manner of Group A/B couples then had a laugh at each other’s expense. Then there’s material about not being able to have sex in the morning, or not being able to have sex whilst body noises are emitting… and much more. Whilst the subject matter of his comedy is not exactly ground-breaking his delivery and accuracy of observation is absolutely top notch.

He certainly gave us good value, as he was on for very nearly two hours, and we barely stopped laughing all that time. We loved it, he’s now one of our absolute favourites. His tour goes on up and down the country until May, and I would definitely recommend him!

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