Review: Hal Cruttenden, Udderbelly

hal cruttenden

For Hal Cruttenden's latest tour dates click here.

"Please see Hal, he's really good this year." Typical hype from a promoter I thought when I was advised to see Hal Cruttenden's show Tough Luvvie at the Edinburgh Festival last summer. I duly obliged and was duly disappointed. It was a stuffy room, a difficult crowd and early in the Festival before Cruttenden's skilful take-down of his own middle class lifestyle and its accompanying minutiae had really bedded in. So when I checked it out again at the Udderbelly this year it was with a slightly heavy heart. And, of course, this time I was blown away. The writing felt sharper, the performance was bigger and it probably helped that the venue was much nicer. Hal had been touring the show for a while and despite being just back from a break he really was really good this time. He is back in Edinburgh this summer with this great show and then touring it again in the autumn. Details here. You can read the original review here, but here's a much nicer version below.

Hal Cruttenden decided to call his show Tough Luvvie because that is how he sees himself. He trained as a classical actor, ended up auditioning for bit parts in EastEnders and when not doing stand-up claims that he can get considerably more irate than his mild-mannered stage persona suggests.

It might feel like a caricature but it makes for crowdpleasing comedy. Cruttenden, more Michael McIntyre than Micky Flanagan, is particularly good on the middle-class front. He is so camp even his 12-year-old daughter has asked him if he is gay. His wife has one of those terse Northern Irish accents that sounds menacing even when she is being romantic.

Masculinity is an obsession. He has great fun demonstrating how football chants are merely male bonding to mask male anxiety and reveals how when dealing with unreliable builders he whines like a son hoping to see his divorced dad: “You said you’d come on Saturday … can we go to the park?” These energetically acted out mini-dramas suggest that there is surely a TV sitcom-in-waiting here. At Home with Hal. Or Hal Honey, I'm Home (he's already got a Radio 4 show to his name).

Occasionally the material appears shoehorned in but there is no shortage of laughs, whether discussing the north/south divide, infuriatingly inane Facebook updates or his food fixation. The slightly cuddly comic says he would be no good on MasterChef. By the time the judges arrive he’d have scoffed the entire menu.

The result is a winning set that builds to a road rage anecdote which demonstrates how tough this luvvie can be. There is also a hilarious deconstruction of Rudyard Kipling’s poetry. Though I suspect Cruttenden would probably rather be devouring Mr Kipling’s cakes.

For Hal Cruttenden's latest tour dates click here.

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