Sunday, December 09, 2012

Noises off - review of Sean Hughes

Sean Hughes: Life Becomes Noises, at Arlington Arts, Snelsmore, on Saturday, November 17

IF ever a comedian could change the way he is perceived by his audiences, Sean Hughes has succeeded with his current show, Life Becomes Noises. In fact, revisiting my rather snotty review of his rather disastrous 2010 stand-up visit to Newbury (when his selection of a wholly inappropriate local news story to lampoon drew complaints), I could barely believe that this was the same performer.

The catalyst for Hughes' current show - a staged production rather than pure stand-up - was the death of his father last year, inspiring Hughes to dissect his thoughts and feelings regarding his father and their relationship, the manner of his passing, and his own life and mortality.

Hughes said that rather than the show being a cathartic exercise to help him deal with his grief, he wanted it to be his tribute to his father presented in a format - ie comedy - that would have made him proud. 

Possibly not surprisingly though, it was comedy with a very dark edge. Apart from the gallows humour with which the very subject of death is naturally tinged, Hughes did not shy away from presenting his father with the foibles that made him human - a hard drinking gambler whose return from the pub was not always fully welcomed by his family.

And then there was Hughes' introspection into his own sense of being - a man in the image of his father, both physically and in essence of being, there were flashes of his own inner demons, and struggles which may not have yet been fully concluded.

As on his last Newbury appearance, Hughes was sometimes candidly frank with his audience, not just about himself, but regarding issues he has identified with individual audience members. It’s as if the inner voice that says “Sean, don’t say that” is missing - or he’s just really good at ignoring it.

The difference this time round was the manner with which he dealt with these more challenging utterances - more apologetic if he felt he had gone too far, he dealt out gentle high fives and hugs with the acerbic asides. The approach seemed to be about celebrating the failings that make him, and all of us human- and identifying and embracing those “kettle in the garden” moments when our minds go a little off-piste; and we find ourselves standing in the garden, with the kettle in our hands, wondering what we were inending to do with it.

Challenging then, in parts, the show was also life-affirming and emotive as a reminder of mortality and the acceptance of loss - and that we should all tell our dads that we love them while we still can. 

  • First published in the Newbury Weekly News on November 22, 2012

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