Odd, and good
Luke McQueen doesn’t look like somebody who errs towards the avant garde, (which I think is my way of saying he looks a bit like David Mitchell), but his is a very strange show indeed, far from the conventions of stand-up comedy.
For starters he’s wearing only pants, and for most of the show has baked bean juice down him. He performs a bizarre hour of stunts and stories, often aggressively involving members of the audience, and it doesn’t do anyone any favours to list the various set-pieces here. It’s essentially an onstage breakdown as he details his personal failures – including, crucially, his relationship with his unloving dad.
It’s not quite as wildly original as it first seems, and not just because of the “woe is me” backstory. In recent years there has been a fair amount of this sort of gimmicky comedy, following on from people like Helm, Tim Key and Adam Riches. Going back further, Johnny Vegas is another point of comparison.
Looking at that list, it seems you need a cunning mix of brutality and subtlety to pull off this sort of confrontational comedy, and on that front, McQueen does pretty well. He is a commanding enough figure to persuade most people into the spirit of the show, though whereas someone such as Riches could turn the stoniest of smiles, I couldn’t say that about McQueen. Nor does he have the inherent pathos of Vegas.
There are some lovely underplayed moments, such as his uplifting story about a bread king, and the pay-off that follows that entry-level outrageous behaviour: going through someone’s bag. On the flip side, he goes a very long way for a very weak Elton John gag.
It’s a high-risk move doing this sort of comedy; when it fails, it fails hard. But McQueen wills this show to work, by being fully committed to the cause, and possessing enough invention and deftness beneath the desperation. McQueen strikes me a very promising work in progress, and he could be a show or two from everything really clicking into place.
Review by Paul Fleckney