Edinburghguide.com review of menage a un
Richard Herring - Ménage a Un. (Page 66).
Venue Underbelly. (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate.
Reviewer Leanna Rance.
This is Richard Herring’s 21st Edinburgh show, which marks him out as an elder statesman. And by his own admission, he has his own creative agenda these days when performing at the Fringe. To push and challenge himself, to experiment and take risks, to hone his material – allegedly free from any desire to impress TV executives or win awards (though he would be an unusual comedy beast indeed, if this were actually true.)
Perhaps this necessitates a fair critique be more fluid, to accommodate the shifting sands of the ongoing creative processes. Or perhaps it’s all a clever ploy on Herring’s part, to discourage reviewers from in-depth examination of his material.
The seal of quality where Herring’s writing is concerned is unquestionably intact. As one of the country’s wittiest, sharpest wordsmiths, he rarely, if ever, puts a foot wrong. Consistently he delivers the goods, and this year’s Ménage a Un in terms of the sharpness of the writing, is no exception. However the material is functioning within an unexpectedly formulaic and lacklustre framework.
2006 sees Herring transfer from Pleasance to Underbelly, and tonight he plays to an echoey, half-full room, with the added encumbrance of an irritatingly loud and sibilant mic. This renders his opening gambits less effective, as the audience struggles to adjust to the acoustics. Herring tends to be at his comedic best when perched jauntily upon his high horse, layering clever upon clever –and then some. Indulging in long metaphysical rants and following absurd flights of fancy. He uses ideas as building blocks with great finesse – transforming pommes de terre to apples of the sky. He weaves in and out of stories, deliberately labouring over some and trying the audience's patience to breaking point with undisguised glee, (the Hand Job Centre saga), and slicing through other routines with the precision of a surgeon.
But when all is said and done, 2006 does appear to have brought a sea change for Herring. If there is such a thing as male menopause, then Herring is undoubtedly in the throes of one. Billed as an exploration of loneliness, only-ness and Onanism, ‘Ménage a Un’ reveals itself as self-indulgent rather than reflective, the comedy underpinned by self-pity, when Herring’s forte is normally pitilessness. It doesn’t sit comfortably. Last year’s show brimmed with exuberance, this years offering seems brittle and limited by comparison. There’s a fine line between a funny, intelligent man publicly and relentlessly obsessing over teenage girls – and a sad old git doing the exactly same. A fact Herring might do well to remember.
Even though 2006 may not be a vintage year for this comic, a not-quite-at-his-peak Herring still remains head and shoulders above a lot of the competition. Go see this show. There’s still plenty here to enjoy.
© Leanna Rance - 9 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 27 August at 20.30 every day, excepting 15.
Company - Richard Herring.