Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Comedy Fest review: Ivan Brackenbury's Hospital Radio Roadshow


I almost didn't make it to this one – it was 9.45pm on a Monday night and I'd already seen two shows and godammit is it too much to ask for one early night? Yes, yes it is. If this show is anything to go by, anyway. You can sleep when you're dead. So even though I'm starting to feel the physical and mental results of too much comedy, I'm not going to whinge about it here because I know what you're thinking.

Let's press on. Ivan Brackenbury may well be the rightful heir to a long tradition of British comedy that includes Benny Hill, Kenny Everett, The League of Gentlemen, Little Britain, Big Train and the Fast Show. It's hyperbolic character stuff, a wee bit panto, at times off-colour, sometimes worthy of a groan. In the form of Brackenbury, it's fucking funny.
Apparently every hospital in England has its own internal community radio network staffed by volunteers with whom you wouldn't want to be stuck during a graveyard slot. The sweaty, string-haired and generously proportioned Brackenbury is one such loser and he here gives us an hour of broadcasting live and direct back to his usual hospital in the UK, where requests and shout-outs from various patients are responded to with classic hits that are hilariously inappropriate. Half the time you don't even need to get to the lyrics – when Brackenbury tries to play an uplifting power anthem to cheer up a suicidial patient standing on the building's roof, the opening chords of Van Halen's “Jump” are enough of a punchline.

The show races along at a ripping pace; Brackenbury only plays snippets of each song and throws an arsenal of segues, sound effects and celebrity fills ripped from BBC1 and given brilliant new context when set in the hospital world. There aren't many medical conditions that don't get a serving and while some of the jokes are just horrendous (again, in that old-school British way) the performance of Ivan himself is a surefire winner. He was nominated for a Perrier and won Edinburgh's Spirit of the Fringe award; it doesn't take a specialist to see why.

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