Live Review: Tony Law, Leicester Square Theatre

Sometimes there is a thin line between watching a stand-up comedy gig and watching somebody have a mental meltdown onstage. The latest show from Tony Law, A Law Undo His-elf What Welcome, feels like one of those occasions. Certainly last night anyway. This was the kind of lunacy that should either win awards or prompt someone to call a doctor.

From the start when Law hurtled onstage and did a ribbon dance to classical music after making an offstage announcement “Get ready for my art” this was always going to be an odd show. At his best Law is a blizzard of disparate ideas that somehow make sense. And there were times last night when he certainly hit those heights.

Heck, even Law spoke some sense about Brexit and ISIS. But between the coherent gags there were frequent wobbly moments of self-revelation. The not-very-full theatre was clearly preying on his mind (and maybe his bank balance) as he joked about the way that he had managed to whittle down his audience from previous highs to a loyal hardcore. 

He did find the funny side of his predicament though. At one point he blamed his modest following for pushing him in this extreme direction. If they didn’t keep buying tickets maybe he would have to make his act more accessible and more popular. There was also a “why aren’t I on Live at the Apollo?” aside that was probably simultaneously ironic and genuine. And given that the next series features surrealist Sam Simmons and silent clown Spencer Jones he has a point. 

The UK-based Canadian would certainly make a visual impact on mainstream television. He gets more gags out of his appearance than many stand-ups get in their entire set. He is currently sporting long flaxen hair, a military jump suit and gaffer tape to hold his stomach in. 

Yet despite his insistence that he doesn’t write jokes there were lots of genuinely hilarious moments in the show as he bounced from subject to subject. One moment he was talking about studying bonobos in the jungle for a year, the next he was talking about the Crusades. Or trampolining. Or making aircraft noises. A particular highlight was his extended riff on the Citroen Picasso Xsara and its generous headroom.

Beyond the material Law also had the verbal tic of commenting on his material, wondering whether some sections were over-extended, joking about putting a bit in about his dad for emotional value and referring to a mis-timed lighting cue that was supposed to come during a lull to prompt him to raise the energy for the home straight. And, as he pointed out, if there is a dip you can always pull out of a potential tailspin with an accent - he then promptly became a Yorkshireman discussing the Pompidou Centre.

Law is a comedian who is clearly not afraid to push at every boundary he comes up against. He will go in any direction in search of a laugh. In fact he will go in various directions even if they won’t get a laugh. He is a daring, on-the-edge performer who deserves greater recognition and bigger audiences. He might joke about this being “art” but it certainly feels like “art” to me. 

Of course it might all be an act. Perhaps he is more balanced than he currently seems onstage. Maybe after the show he goes home, puts a normal suit on, sits in an armchair, lights a pipe and reads a book. In which case he should not be getting comedy awards anyway, he should be getting acting awards.

Until October 29. Tickets here.

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