As only the cognoscenti know, there’s no finer place to be than Milton Keynes on a Sunday night in November – and a total sell-out appearance of one of Ireland’s finest, Dara Ó Briain, on his So Where Were We tour, which would have been a good name for those early days post-lockdown but seems a trifle anachronistic now. I was surprised to discover it’s been seven years since we saw DOB live, with his Crowd Tickler show; although, to be honest, I was even more surprised to discover it’s been over five years since we’ve been to the Milton Keynes Theatre. Fortunately I had remembered that you need to sit in either Row A or Row E for maximum comfort, and that hasn’t changed.
A giant in comedy, in more ways than one, Mr Ó B wanders ungainly onto the stage and you’re instantly cocooned in his warm Irish garrulousness. He roams from subject to subject with a seeming lack of focus but it couldn’t be further from the truth. He knows exactly how his show is structured, and by the end of the show, you need both fingers and toes to count the number of callbacks he’s established.
Much of this is achieved, of course, by his connection with the front row, with whom he spends several blissful comedy minutes, discovering their jobs and other personal nuggets. Last night’s front row offered a high level of intelligence, including a data analyst for Kärcher (and his mum, who knew Mrs Kärcher), a supercomputer programmer, and someone who works for Red Bull Formula One. To say Dara was impressed was an understatement. Naturally, by the end of the show, he had worked up a hilarious scenario where all these people intertwined. The comic agility of his brain is amazing!
Other things we discovered during the show were the difference between a walking stick and a cane, how a staid Irishman reacts at the offer of a sexy massage, and how Mrs Ó Briain gains his attention when she doesn’t want to disturb the children. However, a large part of the second half of the show is devoted to one extended subject and monologue – and it’s an important, personal account by Mr Ó B, so I won’t offer any spoilers. Suffice to say he turns a serious quest into a comedy thread; plenty to laugh at, but also lots of amazing revelations to take your breath away. Fortunately, he ends on a very high note – it could have been alarmingly serious in other, less gifted, hands.
At almost 2 hours 40 minutes, including an interval, we got great value out of Mr Ó B. Supremely entertaining as always, but showing a slightly more serious side than in previous shows, this is an evening of sheer enjoyment. His tour continues into 2023 – but you’d better get your skates on, as he sells out rapidly!