Felix Dexter at New Greenham Arts on Thursday, November 4
THE good people of West Berkshire must be busy saving for Christmas, as comedy character actor Felix Dexter was the second performer in a couple of weeks, after John Hegley, to see his show downgraded from The Corn Exchange auditorium to a smaller space owing to disappointing ticket sales.
However, apart from the obvious financial benefits to the performer of filling a bigger venue, Dexter’s show, like Hegley’s, appeared to benefit from the intimate atmosphere. I’m not a fan of the current vogue for arena comedy (although that’s partly because those venues are outside the Newbury Weekly News’ jurisdiction and I’d have to buy a ticket), and many comedians come across better in a smaller room, as long as there’s enough audience members present to allow for laughter without awkwardness.
Dexter’s show, Multiple Personalities In Order, saw him perform as three characters, charming Nigerian Julius Olufemwe, posturing playa Early D and refined architect Aubrey Dubuisson. Each character’s persona explored issues of ethnicity such as the suspicion of Dubuisson’s Cotswold neighbours towards his “high melanin content”, and his apparent acceptance of this as being the way of the world.
A former lawyer, Dexter has won awards for his acting, and was seen on television earlier this year playing several of the central characters in Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse’s spoof travelogue Bellamy’s People on BBC2. It was fascinating to see him physically transform into the characters as he slipped on Early D’s oversized padded jacket or Dubuisson’s elegant gilet. Unlike many similar stage performers, Dexter interacted heavily with the audience while in character, demonstrating a confidence in his well-defined personas, and in audience member’s willingness to play along with some potentially embarrassing scenarios.
However, it was his mid-change monologues that invited the most relaxed laughter, as he told the story of a recent performance in a high-security prison. Maybe this was because the audience felt more comfortable with Dexter as himself rather than as his sometimes unpredictable characters. He has previously performed “straight” stand-up shows to a mixed reception, but I would be happy to hear more from the man behind the gilet.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News, Thursday, November 11, 2010