If you’re not the parent of a tweeny, or if you don’t like middle of the road music or dance, it’s probably only the comedy line-up that would bring you to The Alban Arena. Among the many top comic names, Armstrong and Miller are arguably the most celebrated to stop in as part of their national tour.
It’s their two most recognised characters who open the show, the two World War II airmen, parachuting into the Arena. It’s always tricky to explain comedy but the twist in this sketch is that the airmen speak with 1940’s Queen’s English accents, but their language is... like, that of young chavs? Many of the favourites from the series make an appearance: the pair of musicians whose songs are unexpectedly crude, the TV historian who inevitably destroys a ‘quite literally priceless’ piece of antiquity, the husband who returns home early but fails to realise despite blatant evidence that his wife is having an affair with his boss and best friend, and the regency dancers whose flirtation becomes extremely explicit.
The most successful sketches involved audience participation: including the pair of female organic stallholders who instigate a food fight, the dentist whose outrageous conversation can’t be stopped by his patient, and Jim whose wife has jilted him on their wedding day. Arguably the best sketch was that of the apologising children’s TV presenters, who have ‘let down’ their audience and have to explain in age-appropriate language their exceedingly adult late-night capers, much of which have clearly made the press.
There were only a few spots that didn’t quite hit the target: the neanderthal song about language development was difficult to follow, the vampires appearing at a get fit session slowed the pace, and the odd shoehorning in of local references to please the St Albans audience was a little lame.
Armstrong and Miller are fine comic actors, and one wonders whether, especially with a live audience, they have played the show a little safe – could they push the subject matters a little more, or demonstrate the broad range of their talents with some darker or more challenging material?
Nevertheless, they do offer an excellent evening’s entertainment. The pace never slackens, and they are consummate performers. And in any case, this reviewer is glad to be anonymous, just in case Armstrong’s character may pretend to be friendly, and then turn to his intercom and utter “KILL HIM!”
Verdict: King of Herts (4 out of 5)
26 Nov 10