Andy Hamilton at The Corn Exchange, Newbury on Saturday, September 8, 2012
HE’S a little bit taller than Sandi Toksvig - that isn’t saying much; but comedy performer and writer Andy Hamilton has a big personality that effortlessly filled the sold out Corn Exchange with much amusement and pleasure, perfectly targeted at an audience mainly comprising Radio 4 listeners.
Starting with an apology and explanation of why he had to reschedule his Newbury date from May - “I had viral gastro enteritis - I could have done the show, but only if a live feed could be set up from my toilet”, Hamilton’s show was certainly worth the four-month wait.
Possibly best known for playing Satan in his long-running BBC Radio 4 sitcom Old Harry’s Game, Hamilton’s show was entitled Hat of Doom (referring to a hat filled with random topics which he could then talk about during the show), but in person, he is extremely un-satanic, conveying much warmth with his wit.
There was a little bit of audience participation, but nothing too uncomfortable (apart from the inability of anyone in the room willing to attempt an impression of a taser gun being fired - giving Hamilton much amusement at our parochial naivety), some fun and games, a silly song, and a Q &A session (I am kicking myself for forgetting to ask him to do his Dr Elephant voice; the character he plays in Peppa Pig).
All lovely stuff; that's not to say that a little bit of politics didn’t come into it, but the show wasn’t as overtly topical as those who know Hamilton from various radio and television current affairs panel shows might expect - it was more like a anecdotal performance of the sort of true stories and experiences which inspire his radio and television scriptwriting.
In particular, his musings on family life suggested that he didn’t have to look too far from his own home in the writing of BBC sitcom Outnumbered; with the tale of the little girl who picked up more than grouting tips when playing “builder’s mate”, and a wonderful relaying of an unfortunate experience when he and his wife were faced with an angry hippo in Kenya.
But you can’t keep an acerbic topical wit suppressed entirely, and there were some wonderful, gossipy nuggets thrown in unexpectedly, including a fabulous titbit about Jeffery Archer which I would love to repeat here, but won’t - Hamilton is already in enough trouble with the Cornish for something he said about them on a panel show, so I don’t want to make things worse.
With this being Hamilton’s first ever touring show (I wouldn’t have guessed), he has nearly 40 years as a comedy writer and performer to draw material from; and the random elements mean that it is quite likely that seeing him again could draw out an entirely different set of anecdotes. I am seriously tempted to see him again at The Concert Hall in Reading on September 30 - although that is another show rescheduled from May, there are still tickets available. If you weren’t able to see Hamilton at The Corn Exchange on Saturday, I urge you to go. Especially if you’re a Radio 4 listener.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, September 13, 2012