Richard Herring

Richard Herring – Lord of the Dance Settee

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15/10/14

Frog and Bucket, Manchester

The UK’s hardest-working comedian brought his Edinburgh Festival show to a sold-out Frog and Bucket, bringing much-needed laughter on a grim and rainy Wednesday night in October. As ever, when you see a show in a different venue, there are pluses and minuses.

The pluses were evident from the word go. Herring was able to extend the material over a more leisurely ninety minutes, instead of the brisk one-hour slots that are the Edinburgh norm, and it was also clear that he’d honed and polished the material since August, extracting every ounce of humour from it. His unique, hectoring style is a joy to behold, finding laughs in the most unlikely places and time and again, he strays perilously close to the indefensible, only to dance nimbly away, defusing the whole thing with a barrage of carefully chosen invective. Laugh and learn folks, laugh and learn. At times, the packed audience was near to hysteria.

The minuses were mostly imposed on Herring by circumstances beyond his control. He couldn’t, for instance, recreate the ingenious circular narrative of the original shows, mostly because of the confines of the club’s tiny stage and the fact that the titular settee (freshly sourced for each location, apparently) looked as though it would have resulted in broken limbs if he’d tried to do what he did in Edinburgh. But ultimately, it didn’t matter. A friend at our table judged this to be one of the best comedy shows he’d ever seen and the iconic name of Daniel Kitson was mentioned as a suitable comparison. This was also an opportunity to get hold of the (reasonably priced and much-longed for) Fist of Fun DVDs. There are still some seats available for later in the tour (Crewe in particular, judging by an off-the-cuff remark that Herring made onstage) so if you have the chance to catch a show, then I would strongly advise you to take it.

Laughter is in perilously short supply these days and this is comedy gold.

4.7 stars

Philip Caveney

I Killed Rasputin

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05/08/14

Assembly, George Square Theatre, Edinburgh

As both a theatre-lover and a Richard Herring fan, it was obvious that I would attend this show. Less obvious was what I should expect. I know that Herring has written plays before, but I haven’t seen them. The poster looks rather solemn and serious; would the performance eschew all humour to focus on the history?

Of course not. While this piece is certainly informative, it’s entertaining too (“laughing and learning, folks”), and the ridiculousness of the story the world was supposed to swallow is cleverly exposed.

The casting is audacious, with Nichola McAuliffe in the lead role of Prince Felix Yusupov, playing up his notorious gender-bending reputation. McAuliffe is magnificent and Eileen Nicholas, as his arch wife, Irina, is the perfect foil, these two ‘older’ women easily commanding the stage. (Pay attention, Hollywood! Pay attention, BBC! Pay attention, everyone! Women who are over fifty can be wonderful. Write more parts for them!) In fact, the sheer brilliance of these two actors creates what, for me, is the only problem with the play: their combined charisma and charm means that they steal the show, and so the enigmatic Rasputin (Justin Edwards), appearing as a ghost to torment Yusupov, perhaps fails to make as much impact as he needs to, and it is, at times, hard to see how the Russian aristocracy could have been so beguiled by this relatively ordinary man. However, this is a minor quibble – and there’s plenty to relish in the performance, not least the multi-role playing and clever direction.

Overall, the play works very well, combining artful exposition with delightfully silly humour, and really helps to illuminate this fascinating moment in history. 

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield

Richard Herring – Lord of the Dance Settee

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04/08/14

Assembly, George Square Theatre, Edinburgh

There surely isn’t a harder working comedian than Richard Herring – and no trip to the fringe would be complete without a set from him. This year we also have the opportunity to see a play he’s written, I Killed Rasputin (more of that in due course). His stand up event, Lord of the Dance Settee,  is perhaps less tied to a concept than previous outings; he himself describes it as a collection of ‘bits and pieces’ – but that hardly does it justice. A visibly slimmed down version of Herring bounds enthusiastically onto the stage and launches into some recollections from childhood – though of course, these are much more edgy than they would be in the hands of a lesser comic – and you find yourself laughing (sometimes uncontrollably). Just when you think the event is going to be allowed to peter out, he ties everything together, quite brilliantly, with an ending he’s asked reviewers not to reveal… So I’ll simply say that it is joyful, heart warming and totally unexpected. It’s been said before (mainly by him) but Herring really is the King of the Fringe. Long may he reign.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney