Thursday, March 13, 2014

Miranda Hart review - 'Jolly and child-hearted, but not ambitious'

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"This isn't just a show," Miranda Hart tells her 16,000-strong crowd. "Tonight, I thought we'd have a party." For fans of her TV work - and there are many - Hart's first standup tour is a cause for celebration. And so their heroine lays on balloons, a buffet (well, a few packets of Doritos) and communal singing.

"Such fun!" runs the catchphrase, and Hart certainly supplies that to anyone seeking a night of uncomplicated gaiety. But there's nothing novel, heartfelt or remotely surprising going on. It may be a risk for Hart to hit the arena circuit from a standing start but the show itself plays very safe.

She vaults her first major hurdle with a bit to spare, proving herself wholly at ease on the O2 stage. Displaying not a hint of nerves, she's supremely in control, an energetic, relentlessly upbeat hostess welcoming us to her "cocoon o' fun". And really, My, What I Call, Live Show is better considered as funhouse than standup. There's (consensual) audience participation, as we all simulate the soundtrack of a posh party. Two volunteers are packed off on a blind date, Hart leads us in a dance-along to Whigfield's Saturday Night, and we're obliged to karaoke to Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive.

Are you getting a sense yet of the ruthless populism of this occasion? The choice of I Will Survive is symptomatic: almost everything here is familiar bordering on cliche. Jokes about the right time to fart in a new relationship? (There are lots of fart jokes.) Jokes about the faces we pull when suppressing a yawn? The embarrassment of having to run to catch a bus? This material's so old, I felt less inclined to laugh than to carbon-date it.

Sometimes, the conservatism of the whole enterprise is plain weird, as when Hart ends an anecdote about licking someone's fingers at a tea party with the surprise reveal, "I'm so sorry, vicar!" - as if being outrageous in front of the vicar were still (if it ever was) the last word in social faux pas. Elsewhere, we meet "an old major" who shouts "down, boy!" at his "dicky leg", and it starts to feel the jokes have been co-written by Agatha Christie.

There's better stuff elsewhere. Her ad libs are good, and reveal flashes of someone slyer and funnier than her own material. A routine on the behaviour adults should reclaim from toddlers is likeable, as is another about parents trying to rein in their errant child at a wedding. There's lots of physical comedy, although Hart's catalogue of silly walks aren't especially unusual or expressive.

Interest flickers into life when she addresses her current fame, but that's mainly because everything else seems designed to conceal rather than reveal the real Miranda.

Hart might have used her standup tour to share something of herself or discuss matters close to her heart. But the character she projects here - bumbling woman-child falling off the toilet - is as two-dimensional as her sitcom persona.

Several anecdotes ring patently untrue, and when she starts joking about how parents should behave to their teenage children, you think: whose life is this material derived from, and why isn't it hers?

I'm not saying all standup must be autobiographical. But there's something strikingly impersonal about much of Hart's observational comedy tonight. Where she succeeds is in fostering a party atmosphere, and delivering with brio the goofy, self-deprecating humour she knows her family audience enjoys. At its best, the night is attractively jolly and child-hearted. But it's not ambitious - and I didn't believe a word of it.

Friday-Sunday, Manchester (0844 847 8000); Monday and Tuesday, Glasgow (0844 395 4000); then touring.

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