On Friday afternoon I got a text from Karen, a family friend, commonly know to my fiancé and I as our Fairy Godmother. She was offering tickets to see Gyles Brandreth’s show Looking For Happiness at the Leicester Square Theatre. I accepted, because I’m not the sort of person to turn down free tickets to any sort of theatre, but it certainly wasn’t something I would have booked myself, and I didn’t really expect to enjoy it. I had heard Brandreth on Radio 4 many times, and he always came across as a privileged, snooty, Conservative caricature. I was prepared for disappoint, but as soon as I walked into the seedy cosiness that is the Leicester Square Theatre, I was filled with a great joy. LST is quite possibly, the most perfect venue for this style of show. It’s intimate, yet capacious, with a low ceiling that confuses my perception of space. It’s wonderful venue, with posters of comedy greats lining the walls, such as Roseanne Barr and Joan Rivers. The venue made me open to the possibility that this might be a great show, but Brandrath made it happen. Appearing in a jester’s outfit, he paraded around the stage with joy and self-awareness, dispelling any impression I had of him being pompous or aloof. The show itself was well structured, consistent, poignant and very funny in places. Is it stand-up comedy? I was lucky enough to get a few moments with Himself after the show, and asked him how he would categorise it. He was charming, but evasive: he refused to place it in a category. I think I’m happy to call it stand-up theatre – it was one man, speaking directly to the audience, making them laugh on a regular basis, but also featured coherent progression, moments of sadness and an overall purpose. ‘Stand-up theatre’ seems like a very accurate phrase to use, but Karen wasn’t terribly impressed.
“Why to you have to categorise everything, Tory? Why should it fit in a box?!”
She’s right, of course, but at the end of the day, I am an academic.