It says everything about Russell Brand and his attention-seeking personality that of the five images on stage with the comedian: Gandhi, Guevara, Malcolm X and some chap named Jesus Christ, the fifth (of Brand himself) dominates the room. Projected on to a vast screen behind the Essex boy-made-good, he is pictured as a soulful Saviour. It reminds you that while the show may be billed as a romp through some of the era’s most important figures, it’s really all about Brand.
He bounds on stage to rockstar cheers and screams, all drainpipe jeans and bonhomie, and quickly cuts to the chase: 80 minutes of why Brand is a little like these iconic figures. The thing that stops Brand from being a wanker, that rescues him from the brink of grandiosity, is his willingness to humiliate himself. One of the funnier moments is when he describes climbing on to a police van during a riot, stripping naked to cheers which quickly falter, when he discovers his dick has all but disappeared in the cold, leaving ‘what looks like a bald spot in my pubes’.
There’s plenty of polemic in the show – Brand’s ‘why can’t we all get along?’ values definitely appeal to the crowd. His view of communism – ‘it just means sharing!’, his contempt for branding (a description of Ronald McDonald lovin’ it with a Fillet-O-Fish… I may have to scrub my brain with bleach) and his disdain for the media and political elite catch the audience’s mood just so.
It’s not so much that Brand’s comedy is new (there’s a biblical joke about not coveting your neighbour’s oxen which came in with the Ark), but his energy, playfulness and the cascade of words tumbling from his lips – it’s very infectious. And he also makes a serious point about heroes, that the qualities Gandhi et al personify – strength, courage, leadership, belief in a higher ideal – are in short supply in our modern era. Their images have been stripped of meaning: Gandhi is used to sell computers, Guevara to sell cars, and meanwhile we’re all focusing on throwaway celebrities, deified by a cynical media. Yes, don’t worry, he’s aware of the irony. This dark undercurrent sets off a show which is both richly funny and satisfyingly filthy, and will bring pleasure to anyone who loves hearing the English language used to its utmost.
He always ends with a description of the power of female sexuality, he informs us cheerfully, so he can get laid. Like everything else, it’s a joke yet also dead serious. The audience laughed as he played up to his image of a legendary lothario, but I dunno, using your show to beg for sex? For me it was a duff note after the previous heights. In fact, it was classic Russell Brand: his heart may be yearning for spiritual heights but his feet are definitely made of clay.
Russell Brand will be performing Messiah Complex on 14 and 15 October and 5 December at:
45 Queen Caroline Street
Tel: 0844 249 4300
Image by Ray Burminston