The Apollo, Manchester
I know some of you have tickets and haven’t seen the show yet so look away now!
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
This show celebrates 25 years of Vic & Bob’s TV career – and indeed it’s over 25 years since I last saw them live in 1990 at an all-standing gig at Manchester University which felt more like a rock gig than a comedy show. I was blown away by that show (as I was when I first saw the Big Night Out going out) – it was pure, silly, Dada nonsense and full of those breathless laughs that make you feel like you’ve been winded. So I had mixed feelings about tonight, and booked at the last minute. It was never going to be as amazing as that 1990 show was it?. Nevertheless, R&M’s TV work has been consistently funny over the years and while I was a bit disappointed they were going to be doing a bit of a nostalgia-fest – the shameless nostalgic twat in me couldn’t resist a chance to see Graham Lister and the Man with the Wobbly Hand again.
The stage show itself is pretty minimal, a few chairs and a desk and a few odd props – Vic and Bob do the whole show alone- there is no house band, no supporting cast, No Les and no Simon Day who would often be filling in between costume changes in the 90s. The gaps instead are filled by some filmed inserts of new material some of which gets bigger laughs than the old stuff.
Early reviews suggest the show was overlong and flagged in the middle. No such problem here – so maybe they’ve trimmed it down since, but it felt well paced with a pleasing mix of set pieces, songs and just enough arsing about and a pretty constant stream of belly laughs. They get some (very funny) gags about Bob’s recent health issues away early doors and from then on the show leaned quite heavily on ‘Big Night Out’ era material, with The Stotts, Graham Lister and a run through of Novelty Island – but there were nods to ‘The Smell Of…’, ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘Shooting Stars’ – but ultimately some of the funniest bits were just the two of them dicking about and trying to make each other corpse (which they did frequently). There is no R&M ‘Parrot Sketch’ but they did throw a few classic bits in to satisfy the most fairweather fans and a few little gems for R&M nerds (I was delighted to see Ian Pearson the Crab telling us about the Glens and Valleys of the Highlands of Scotland). Eh? Ay?
Full house, and at least where I’m sat everyone is into it. No idiot hecklers, and iPhone documentary makers are quickly pounced on by security. I don’t see anyone in costume (like in 1990) although quite a few gentleman could pass for Les or one of Tinkers Rucksack. The crowd are a bit reserved for some of the (mostly Big Night Out heavy) material but go nuts for later stuff, and the filmed inserts particularly things like Geordie Jeans and The Free Runners get really big laughs.
It made me think..
Given the reaction to the ‘Afternoon Delights’ bits and new material (clearly there was a proper TV series that never was,) – should R&M take to this touring lark they clearly don’t need to lean so heavily on ‘doing some old’ next time around and drop the stuff for the catchphrase-spotters. I got the impression the crowd were up for some darker stuff like Tom Fun and Derek or Kinky John . R&M could barely get through a sketch without corpsing, and it was delightful to witness them setting each other off and laughing with them. They clearly enjoy being back on stage so I hope we see them treading the boards again with a new show in the not too distant – (aside – preferably not at the Apollo which is notoriously ill suited to the spoken word -a few gags get lost to the acoustics for those past the front stalls so maybe The Salford Lowry next time? )