Radio 4 stalwart Marcus Brigstocke returned to Coventry with his latest show which was very much an evening of two halves. This new offering, self-deprecatingly titled Why the Long Face?, focused not just on the righteous ire and satirical anger which has dominated so much of his work (though there was plenty of that too), but was also about his personal troubles of late.
Certainly, the first half of the show dealt mainly with the somewhat mixed bag of a year that’s been 2016 – one of political upheaval, the rise of fascism and myriad deaths of beloved cultural icons. Brigstocke, not surprisingly, saved much of his outrage for the subject of the EU referendum, with his pro-European rant being greeted with applause and cheers of approval, but crucially managing to fit in a surfeit of gags along the way.
It was the grotesque triumvirate of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and – after switching gear to talk about the US Presidential election – Donald Trump which provided plenty of solid material to work with, leaving Brigstocke mining great mirth from the gloom. After the interval, though, there was a sharp left turn into much more personal subject matter, including the breakdown of his relationship. It was fairly shocking, then, that the tone of the second half of the show was ultimately one of the importance of hope, rather than indulging in despair – this was particularly effective when juxtaposed with the angry first half, and was more enjoyable for it.
The neat ending underlined what was an impressive performance and a show which combined impassioned rage with an earnestness and levity which were genuinely surprising. Allied with no shortage of laughter, this was oddly uplifting and cathartic, and a much-needed way to round off what’s undoubtedly been a traumatic year.