The latest performance in a career spanning beyond the 30 years referenced in the show's title, Frank Skinner's new show 30 Years of Dirt is a heartwarming welcome back into the arms of a comedy icon.
There is little doubt that the comedy circuit in the UK has changed vastly over time. Comedians have been celebrated as the underground fringe artists that are the only true social critics, as the new rock stars of the age sporting huge production values and high budgets, and everything in between. Big names have come and gone, stadia have been filled and pub theatre basements have seen a handful of dedicated diehards ‘holding the fort'.
A stage containing only a single table covered with a dark cloth, reflecting the unpretentious man himself, leaves us little doubt as to the type of evening we can expect from Skinner's latest show and as the opening performance is by co-host of The Frank Skinner Show, Pierre Novellie, a comfortable feeling of bonhomie sets in.
And seems set to stay. Novellie offers us a set permeated with gentle indignation and self-reprisal and, while his references to a certain fried chicken purveyor are significant enough to deserve a possibly ill-fated endorsement deal, his suggestion that men shouldn't listen their bodies because they tell them to do things that are inherently bad for them, and his stories as a South African child in the Isle of Man are engaging, insightful, and of course; funny.
Suitably warmed up, the audience reaction when Frank Skinner enters is predictably strong and, in contrast to Novellie's rather static performance, Skinner's comfortable pacing takes stock of the full breadth of the stage and the evening's audience.
The script for the show is less of a routine and more of ‘an evening with' as we hear not just finely crafted jokes (who would have expected to be given the image of Ghandi's face when he receives a blowjob) but also stories from his career (such as the failure of his ‘shit' play and his connection to younger audience members being Taskmaster) and his family (would his wife notice if he only bought 9 roses for her instead of a dozen), generously interspersed with audience interaction.
Skinner is brutally honest about his career and the show's nature and the general feeling could be compared to what it might be like if you were sitting together in a pub. Passing references to sport, offering more insight into Ronaldo's abs than I had ever previously received, only build on this and while it could be said that the show's content does little to break new ground, the feeling is that that was not the intention.
Frank Skinner's 30 Years of Dirt is a performance by a true craftsman who genuinely seems to enjoy their art and while it may not be lifechanging in its innovation or as dirty as its name suggests, it certainly has charm, style and receives the unexpected accolade of being the only thing to make me feels homesick for the Midlands since moving away some years ago.
Running until the 17th of February at the Gielgud Theatre.
Review: Damien Russell