Tom Allen is a British comedian who won the So You Think You’re Funny contest and the BBC New Comedy Award in 2005. He has supported Sarah Millican on tour. He had a sell-out Edinburgh Fringe show in 2016. He can currently been seen on TV co-hosting the GBBO spin off programme: Bake Off: The Professionals.
I have seen him perform a few times on the Comedy channel and I really enjoy his hyperbolic style. He is posh and gay and his entire act is built around this. Performing to a sell-out show in the Quays theatre on a Monday evening, Tom kicked off his show after an overture of camp show tunes to set the mood. An empty stage back-lit in purple on silks with a stool – that he refused to sit on as it was a contradiction to his job description – and a small side table was all that occupied the stage. Tom filled the auditorium with his larger than life persona.
His act is a nonstop torrent of storytelling about his childhood and existence as a gay man and his ordeals and trials and interactions with the world. Completely over-the-top, stereotyped gay overacting is his signature and we howled with laughter as he regaled tales from his past. From being a small child wearing a silk dressing gown and swishing around pretending to be Noel Coward to being invited to a birthday party at Ryan’s house which he loathed but really appreciated Ann’s ( the birthday boy’s mother’s) Laura Ashley curtains! His snobby comments on working class party buffets of chocolate and crisps ( together!) commentary made me giggle and reminded me of Peter Kay’s garlic bread gags.
He didn’t fit in at school and aligned himself at high school with the chatty girls in the music room and learnt how to play show tunes on a flute (not a euphemism). This choir of gay boys and chatty girls later went on a school trip to France to perform at an old people’s home. He was very excited to practise his French and ask for a bagel in the hypermarket’s bakery but had not practised listening to the French reply which wasn’t the expected “Oui!” His acting out of this scene was hilarious. The first half of the show was almost an hour long with an interval and the second half almost the same. This man has a huge repertoire of content but our favourite was his interaction with the audience members on the front row. He asked them their names and their occupations and then questioned them in his own style on the nature of their business and lives. His acerbic comments to the retired, ‘ Come on hurry up we are not all retired’ just so quick. He is instinctive, intuitive, spontaneous and razor sharp wit is supplemented by his posh, snotty comments- not particularly offensive but having the audience laughing raucously. Commenting on retired Bernard’s ‘All Saints’ jumper with a raised eyebrow. Later asking him which car he drove and when told it was a mini cooper responding with ‘ Are there no ends to your efforts to be young?’ Not being able to say ‘Kay’ which one audience member had said her name was because the owner had a broad accent and he reacted with ‘ Caaa? Caaa? Care Bear?’…. ‘ Oh! Kay!’ This man is seriously sharp. He remembered everyone’s names and personal details and poked fun at them throughout. After the interval he jibed at one member for putting their glass on the stage ‘ This isn’t a giant coffee table you know?’
My side-splitting favourite tale was of him being invited to a Hen Party as a token gay – then there being another token gay there – his nemesis Kevin from high school (now a professional dancer) who ended up tap dancing on the table like Lionel Blair. When he was asked to do a turn on the karaoke he sang Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car‘ in his plummy accent which turned the party and the hens into a suicidal depression. The shared buffet was in a room that was beiger than any room he’d ever been in; meaning the buffet food. He recoiled in horror at the sausage rolls being removed from their cellophane and placed in their plastic tray directly onto the table. ‘What did they think we were? Dogs? ‘This man is absolutely hysterical and could go on for days.
I look forward to seeing lots more of him and his successes in the future. A memorable Monday night out in Salford which he teased ‘is the posh part of Manchester’.
The Tom Allen's ‘Absolutely’ tour is currently touring the UK until Mid-December.
Reviewer - Kathryn Gorton
on - 22/10/18