Friday, 25 October 2019

COMEDY REVIEW: Ben Elton - The Lowry Theatre, Salford

One of the original 'New Romantics' of alternative comedy, accomplished author and sitcom stalwart Ben Elton celebrated his 60th year on this earth with a UK tour that graced The Lowry in Salford on a cold autumn night. But the question was, can the man who was well-known for pushing boundaries find any more boundaries to push in a modern millennial world? With a standing ovation from his audience after a quality set, for his Manchester / Salford crowd at least, the answer was a resounding yes.

After a self-confessed 15-year absence from stand-up, the man known for “a little bit of politics” actually refrained from over-referring to the seemingly vicious circle of Brexit. Instead he favoured his observational stances on suddenly finding himself no longer the young revolutionary but the older, sadly less wise, white straight male with a penis.

Being a millennial parent, the pointlessness (yet hypnotic allure) of modern consumerism and above all, the world-changing evolutionary use of internet and smart phones were all, perhaps easy, but relatable targets of his humorous rants delivered with an energy that reminded those of us who were around in the 1980s, of a showman who very rarely paused for breath.

One thirty-something audience-member saying after the show “Is it wrong I fancy a 60-year-old?” was testament to Elton’s energy and presence, making him, to our mind, the Iggy Pop of comedy.

Good comedy is about taking risks but so is bad comedy, hence the risk. With a progressive left-leaning crowd (this is Greater Manchester after all and it’s Ben Elton on the ticket stubs!), he was probably always going to be in safe hands. However, the opening part of his set did challenge and provoke modern liberal ideals to the point where many felt initially uncomfortable wondering had their prized social warrior of comedy gone a bit right-leaning after living and dealing with a few millennial snowflake offspring of his own. But in true Elton style, he soon pinned his colours to the red flag but in doing so, had expertly managed to have some of us feeling a little less righteous in our views than perhaps we had before.

Anyone familiar with his writing will know one of his strengths has always been his ability to mix the bleak with the absurd and find the funny in the darkest corners. This was also evident in his stand-up which did not disappoint. We came out having had a good laugh but also a few things to discuss and think about which for us, was challenging comedy at its best.

The world may have changed, comedy may have changed, and certainly, as the once-censored artiste alluded to (with some bitterness given his battles with ‘Auntie’), the boundaries of acceptability have widened to the point of tipping off the planet but for the most part, this has been a good thing and whatever you may think of Ben Elton’s politics or routine, he was very much a front runner of that.

In an age with shows like Naked Attraction, he is unlikely to ever reclaim some of the controversy that once made his name, but the man who brought tampons to our screens, definitely still knows how to empower, provoke and entertain. So for thought-provoking belly-laughs, catch him on remaining dates. A five-star performance!

Reviewers - Rob Tollman and Kate Proctor.
on - 24/10/19

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