Fresh from a panning in the provinces, Steve Coogan embarks on this all-singing all-dancing run at the Apollo this week hoping to tickle Londoners with his trusty brand of coarse humour, regional caricatures and the peerless Alan Partridge.
The result of Coogan’s first live tour for a decade is a show that veers between the rib-clutchingly sublime and the slightly ridiculous.
First up the good. Ageing plastic surgery fan Pauline Calf sashays on stage with a baudy song about her exploits “at the Marriot Hotel”. The following 15 minutes of smutty banter – much of it aimed at Ross Kemp – had the audience in stitches. A base and brilliant curtain raiser.
Now the bad, summed up in two simple words; Tommy Saxondale, Coogan’s Brummie roadie who meanders through an average skit on his ex-girlfiends. Ventriloquist Duncan Thicket won a few more laughs, but the dark jokes about child abuse again felt like they had been done before.
The second half is dominated by Partridge – the show’s banker. Bounding on stage, complete with bomber jacket and ‘M&S slacks’, one of the nation’s favourite comedy characters was met with predictable enthusiasm. It's a show saver.
Our re-invented ‘hero’ launches into a cringeing solo of Queen’s Under Pressure before treating the crowd to a self-help class, which brought him back from a spell of depression, and has apparently helped celebrities from Vanessa Feltz to the aforementioned Kemp.
Partridge fans will be well rewarded for their trip to Hammersmith. But just as it seems the crowd are eating from Coogan’s hand, Partridge exits the stage and the show is brought to an abrupt, bizarre and expletive-strewn end with a satirical ditty on Coogan’s tabloid portrayal.
It is a break-neck show - complete with cabaret, bright lights, dancers and ridiculous wigs - which reminds of the Steve Coogan's comic skill but ultimately leaves you wanting more. A nod must go to the excellent support acts, but the overall feeling is this is a ‘close, but no cigar’ effort from the Coogan camp.
Steve Coogan is Alan Patridge and Other Less Succesful Chararcters is on
at the Hammersmith Apollo until Saturday.