What could be a better date to see Marcus Brigstocke’s latest show about The Devil than on Hallowe’en? Hats off, incidentally, to the Derngate staff for their choice of fancy dress at work, and even a few of the audience came dressed for the occasion. Rest assured, Mrs Chrisparkle and I maintained our dignity in our usual clerical grey and hessian sack.
I’d heard great things about Mr Brigstocke’s new show that was a hit in Edinburgh earlier this year, but I already knew he’d be touring to Northampton later in the year, so we decided to let him come to us rather than vice versa. We’ve seen him in musicals (Spamalot, Barnum) and doing stand-up, and he’s always a treat. He doesn’t shy away from political material, as we first realised when he created his own comedy cabinet in The Brig Society, but it was his Why The Long Face tour in 2016 for which I am truly grateful, because, four months after the EU referendum, he finally gave me the opportunity to laugh my head off about Brexit, which my brain and chuckle muscles sorely needed.
But I’m running before I can walk. Because Devil May Care is a slightly extended version of his one-hour Edinburgh show, Mr B first of all introduced us to his support act. Rob Rouse came on to a warm reception and instantly addressed the elephant in the room by asking who, if any of us, knew that there would be a support act on and that it wouldn’t be an evening of just Mr Brigstocke? Not one person owned up. So much for that vote of confidence for Mr Rouse. But neither he, nor we, needed to worry, because he’s a very funny and likeable guy who strikes up an instant rapport with the audience. He makes a good contrast with Mr Brigstocke, who tends to specialise in mental agility, whereas Mr Rouse is more at home with his physical comedy, such as when he’s imitating a lost vibrator, getting turned on by a tabard, or taking us through a long but hilarious account of his prostate exam. He got to know a few people in the audience, including the mother and daughter with matching kitten ears, and Mark the Mental Health Support worker who looked like God from the back (and apparently from the front too), which helped the whole show along. Sometimes twenty minutes of a support act can seem quite sufficient, but Mr Rouse gave us a full 45 minutes and left us wanting more. Great stuff.
After the interval, enter Mr Brigstocke, to darkened lights, a bewingéd jacket, red make-up and a couple of horns. I do hope he didn’t come in the train like that. Mind you, if he had, he could have successfully demanded treats all night with menaces. He took one look at God (Mark) in the front row and realised that he could, indeed, have met his maker. But this is The Devil, and he pulls no punches. In a brilliantly crafted, smartly scripted hour plus of truly hilarious material about the world today as the Devil sees it, we forget that it’s Mr Brigstocke on stage; apart from the occasional moments when he comes out of character – mainly to remind us how much better an audience we were than Lancaster.
In character he can challenge us. Hell is full, and he’s going to tell us why, and how he’s going to take back control of his borders. He’s also going to implore us not to go to Hell ourselves, as the criteria for entrance have recently changed; for example, being gay is fine, but teabag mismanagement is quite another matter. Along the way he asks us to suggest some famous people who should be in Hell, which led to some fascinating moments when he jiggles (mentally, that is) with the Jimmy Saviles and Rolf Harrises of this world; and though we all detest them, we couldn’t help but sing Two Little Boys all together. He got Andy the Thameslink train driver to make a very intimate revelation; we got inside knowledge on the true story of Adam and Eve. He considered the Hellish elements of the current political climate; and he even got us to confess that we all felt sorry for Theresa May. That’s devilish work.
The meshing together of great stand-up material with the persona of Lucifer himself works incredibly well; it’s a superbly satisfying structure for the show and made you see a whole range of subjects from a completely different angle. We absolutely loved it. One of the best stand-up performances we’ve ever seen. His tour continues throughout the rest of November. Unmissable.