Criterion Theatre, London W1
Opened 1 October, 1998

Postmodernism has one hell of a lot to answer for. It's a valid enough cultural theory, but mostly it's just used as an excuse for folk to peddle crap, knowing it's crap but claiming it's clever and kitsch. Well, it's not. It's just crap.

Lenny Beige a kind of East London Jewish version of Bob Downe has embarked on a ten-week late-night Friday residency at the Criterion. He already has a sizeable clutch of devotees, but whether the word will spread remains to be seen. Frankly, I don't think it deserves to.

Beige is admirably skilled at dealing with audiences, as the question-and-answer sessions in the show prove. He's rather less adept at interacting with his special showbiz guests; on opening night, the obvious rapport with Shaun Williamson (a.k.a. Barry from EastEnders) failed to translate into engaging chat. Nor can Beige keep his character consistent: he sneers at modern music and his alleged son's DJ-ing antics, but covers The Verve and lapses into clubbers' argot. Most damningly, Williamson's fiercely accurate parody of the man demonstrates how little there actually is to Beige's shtick in the first place.

Support act Oliver Darley's vocal talent is exceeded only by his own estimation thereof. It was also noticeable that several celebrity punters (well, Leo Sayer and Math Priest from Dodgy) seemed to have shogged off at the interval. In the show's closing minutes, Beige invited a final audience question; somebody called out, "Does the show get any better?" I swear it wasn't me... but it might as well have been.

Written for The Stage.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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