It is said that Festivals are places to try to new things. This usually applies to the audience, but in this case it also applied to the performer.
Phill Jupitus has not been a regular face on the comedy circuit for a decade, preferring instead to ply his trade on such programmes as Never Mind the Buzzcocks and QI, where his delivery and quickfire thinking have made him a popular household name.
He also brought that same quickfire thinking to this show and although many comedians, after such a long break, and large following (the show had proven very popular, with few empty seats) would just dust down their old sets, put in a few quips about Stephen Fry, mentioned Jimmy Carr’s tax habits, and maybe something about David Cameron’s view from the moral high ground, Jupitus took a completely different tack.
Instead of playing himself and giving the audience what they wanted, he portrayed two fictional, dead characters, and then took in questions from the audience.
So, in the first half of the show, we had Jupitus playing an old actor, who through his questioning revealed that he had been married to both Jean Paul Gautier and Cyndi Lauper, mixed the American actor Samuel L Jackson up with one of Lichfield’s most famous sons.
He then explored the nature of his own demise with scenes from various films, how as an actor in his 70’s, with a liking for tweed, he had turned down roles as the shark in Jaws, and Chewbacca, questioning the noises that the wookie made, and wanting to present him as a debonair charmer with something of the air of Terry Thomas or John Le Mesurier. He also explained how, when auditioning for the role of Obi Wan Kenobi, he thought that he should have a Mexican accent.
The character, although a parody of old actors, also had moments of pathos, and regret, which added an unexpected depth to the show.
In the second half, he played a pacifist German submarine captain, who loved the jazz work of Louis Armstrong, but he hated Mozart. He had died in 1945, so described the war as a terrible experience, although, as he said, they removed the weapons and torpedos from the submarine and replaced them with a loom!
The level of inventiveness to stay in character and give thoughtful, amusing answers to unexpected questions meant that some of the ideas felt perfunctory at times, but as the show develop this will also change.
As well as these two characters, he also has a 1970’s roadie and an adult actor in his repertoire.
Both halves of the show plumbed some pretty dark, adult territory, and some may have been a bit too close to the bone for a Thursday night Lichfield audience, but for fans who wanted to see a show that was unique, inventive, and charming in its own way this was a pretty good way to pass an evening.