Review: Rob Brydon on tour

Cardiff welcomes careful stand-ups

Rob Brydon

Where: Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
When: 7.30pm. Monday December 8th 2008
How long: Two hours with a 20-minute interval following the warm-up
How much: £20 I think

Well, the public have demanded it and only two weeks after the run finished, I’m reviewing Rob Brydon’s stand-up act at the Wales Millennium Centre – Jerry Sadowicz tomorrow for those who voted for that review.

I’m a responsive blogger, me.

So it’s 7.30 on a Monday night and we’re sitting there, wondering what Rob Brydon’s stand-up act is going to be like. He’s done stuff as Keith Barret before and he did a minor tour as himself for Rob Brydon’s Identity Crisis. But this was the first proper Brydon stand-up tour, albeit one confined to a few towns on a few nights in South Wales. What was he going to do?

The answer here was to send on the warm-up guy first. Chris Corcoran is a (moderately) big name in Wales, having covered SIx Nations Rugby for BBC Wales, done Big Welsh Joke, Little Welsh Joke and The Full Pontyfringe. But he’s best known for the CBeebies show Doodle Do. Hence this picture:

Chris Corcoran

Like a lot of Welsh comedians, his jokes were mostly about being Welsh. And if you’re Welsh, they’re very accurately observed and funny – judging by the hysterics my wife was in as he demonstrated the near-imperceptible/very, very obvious, g’boy differences between North and South Wales accents, differences in behaviour between Valleys girls and Cardiffites and his own exploits as an international touch-rugby player.

To me in my Englishness (I think there were about three of us there in the whole auditorium), it was more a series of interesting anthropological observations, but play to your audience and all that. But I did laugh, particularly at the Valleys girls and their dismay when the heels from their £1 shoes from Primark broke, which is what counts.

After a 20-minute interval, on came Brydon. To be honest, I was a bit wary at first, since he decided to spend the first five or ten minutes picking on members of the audience in the front few rows – which is never a good sign in a comedian.

In fact, despite the expectation that Brydon was going to be all fluffy and Uncle Brynish, it wasn’t long before he was making jokes about one of the guys bringing his gang of ‘hos’ along with him and picking on a guy for being bald.

After that uneasy beginning, things began to look up. There was a bit of recycled material from Brydon’s Barret days and his Identity Crisis tour, such as a joke about what a Welsh Spiderman would be like, for example, and how the sons of an audience member might be saying things in Welsh that he couldn’t understand, and again most of the material was based around being Welsh.

But Brydon did start making some funny jokes. In particular, there was a good section on becoming a father again and choosing whether to go golfing with Ronnie Corbett or be there at the birth. And there was a fun bit about meeting up with former schoolmate Catherine Zeta Jones. An improvised song towards the end didn’t manage to scale many heights, unfortunately.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most applause came at the end when Brydon came on as Uncle Bryn. After trying to find someone in the audience willing to duet with him, Bryn was rewarded with one game girl who didn’t end up needing to sing after all since Ruth Jones came on stage in character as Nessa – getting the biggest cheer of the evening – to sing ‘Islands in the Stream’:

On the whole, a little disappointing: my wife wanted Brydon to be more Welsh and less mean – she was more impressed by Corcoran – while I wanted him to be a bit funnier and to use less of his old material. All the same, a good evening.

Rating: 3/5 (more if you’re Welsh)

The audience
Very Welsh. Quite well behaved. Very quick-witted, too, since they were able to fight back quite well when Rob Brydon picked on them.

The theatre
Probably the best I’ve ever been, too. Here’s a picture of the outside:

The outside of the Millennium Centre

Here are some pictures from the inside. This is the view from inside the second floor bar:

The Millennium Centre second floor bar, looking out through the words

This is of inside the auditorium itself – as you can see, very woody, spacious:

Inside the auditorium

This is a view of the stage: again you can see it’s quite packed.

The stage at the Millennium Centre

And just to give you vertigo, that’s of the ceiling.

The ceiling at the Millennium Centre  

See? Lovely.

It’s very big, very easy to find (obviously), very easy to get into. Big bars on every floor (seemingly) with a reasonable number of friendly people serving. Not a great selection of drinks or crisps, but not bad and the house white’s okay. Reasonable-ish prices, too.

Toilets are pristine and no queues, even at intervals.

Seats are very comfy but there’s not a great amount of leg room, which means even if you stand up to let people pass, they’ll still find it tricky.

Good acoustics, too, and a good view of the stage no matter where you sit. Announcements are bilingual, Welsh first, albeit by an obvious English-first-languager. And there’s a TV screen in the bar to show you what you’re missing if you didn’t turn up on time.

For visitors in wheelchairs, it’s great: not only are there lifts to every floor and disabled ramps to get into the auditorium, etc, there’s room at the back for those in wheelchairs that not only has a good view of the stage but has seats next to the spaces so that partners of those in wheelchairs can sit next to them.

Rob Brydon's programmeThe programme
£5. Very odd it is, too, since there’s no advertising, no guide to the theatre, no guide to the performance itself, as you’d expect with a normal programme. Instead, you just get quite a long, introspective interview with Rob Brydon that runs for pages and pages and pages. (Click the cover to see it become lovely and large).