Review: Omid Djalili, Leicester Square Theatre

omid djalili

"Three stars, but it read like a four,"  "Four stars, but it read like a three," "Five stars, but it read like a one." You can't win when star ratings are added to reviews. When I reviewed Omid Djalili's current show at the Leicester Square Theatre in the Evening Standard I gave it three stars, which might have suggested that I did not enjoy it a great deal. But I certainly enjoyed his high voltage performance more than I enjoyed the man next to me giving his girlfriend a virtual full-body massage during the interval. And I didn't give it three stars because some of the material came from Djalili's last show, Tour of Duty. I knew that was the case in advance so there was no misreprentation there.

The whole star rating business has become trickier than ever recently. In Edinburgh last summer there was a problem with "star inflation". Every website under the sun seemed to be giving everything four and five stars so that it could get a mention on posters and flyers. I try to be a touch more restrained. For the Evening Standard – I'm paraphrasing slightly here – five stars means perfect, four stars means bloody brilliant and three stars still means the show is pretty good. So I gave Omid Djalili three stars (and a positive review) which I thought was fair. And if he wants he is welcome to stick "hugely enjoyable" on his flyers and posters.

Omid Djalili will continue to be hugely enjoyable at the Leicester Square Theatre until My 25. Ticket details here.

NB. Political correctness is a pain too. I wanted to start the review below by saying "Brownie points..." but I was afraid someone might think I was being racist. 


Bonus points to Omid Djalili for opting for a run in this bijou theatre. Last time round he played Hammersmith Apollo and this intimate setting is infinitely preferable. It is not an entirely new show, part old favourites, part work-in-development, but it is hugely enjoyable and it should improve over the month.

His theme is "know thyself", but essentially this is the former moneysupermarket man sticking to familiar strengths, reconciling his Iranian roots with his British showbiz tendencies. The schism is underlined when he says while here we heckle comics we dislike, “in Iran if you don’t like a comic you hang them”.

The shameless showboating gets better results than the satire. Quips about his viewer-frightening trunks on ITV1's Splash notched up more chuckles than gritty observations about Palestine. He might tackle racism and religious intolerance, but I suspect he prefers to discuss working with Robert Redford.

Some gags are obvious, some rely on ridiculous Nigerian accents and someone should ban ubiquitous Olympic routines soon. But Djalili sells every line with such commitment he is impossible to resist. The politics adds gravitas, but it is the populist patter that should sell the tickets.

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