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Comedy Another belter from Bill Bailey

WILL STONE sees a stand-up legend at the top of his form

Larks in Transit
Wyndham Theatre, London

SOMETHING of a gnomish renaissance man, Bill Bailey is a comedian, musician, author and actor although, as he admits himself tonight, in the latter he's usually typecast as a bewildered West Country farmer.

As prolific as he is popular, he has toured a new live show every two years since 2004's Part Troll which, despite its title, predates Twitter.

The key to Bailey's stand-up success is that his live shows always feel like so much fun. The stage has more instruments on it than an orchestra — but not of the classical kind.

There's a theremin that, as Bailey demonstrates, responds just as well to his head as his hands and an array of guitars, including a blues guitar with a body fashioned into the Holy Bible and two
control tuners representing, apparently, the old and new testaments.

Other instrumental eccentricities include an effects pedal downstage that when pressed "in case of emergencies" triggers improv jazz, a sci-fi looking steel drum and his beloved keyboard on which, among many other things, he plays the sampled cries of puffins and owls.

Never one to miss a musical opportunity where you'd least expect it, at one point he manages to play Indian-influenced drum and bass through an app on his iPhone and uses cowbells to create renditions of rock and heavy-metal classics.

Woven into this rich fabric is Bailey's trademark puzzled delivery, through which he tackles Brexit via a cover of Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday, discusses ancient history with a pipe in hand and finds true hilarity in passages from an Indonesian phrasebook.

We're also treated to a Theresa May-sampled rave track and, more bizarrely, Bailey's German counterpart, where he reimagines his show in German with techno-infused production.

And of course there's a healthy dose of rifferama, a conceit where he answers the door to Jehovah's Witnesses while playing death metal on his electric guitar.

The show's mystifying title Larks In Transit is presumably a reference to bird samples and we learn why the call of a loon bird is the preferred dance-music sample of choice over the barn owl or
puffin.

A stand-up of Bailey's calibre will always be in demand for the simple fact that nobody can match his talent for amalgamating comedy and music with so much flair.

Runs until January 5, then tours nationally in May and June, box office and details: billbailey.co.uk

 

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