Review in The Times, 30th January 2007
Tribute to Naked Ambition
got some great acts, weve also got some dross - thats
the way it goes. For accuracy and concision, its hard
to outgun compere Nick Wiltys analysis of this second annual
Malcolm Hardee benefit show, which ran for more than four hours at
the Hackney Empire on Sunday.
As with all sequels,
it couldnt quite equal the impact of its progenitor. Both shows
paid tribute to this self-styled comedian, club owner, grassroots
legend, on-stage nudist and full-time character. This was a celebration
of the sense of comic freedom that Hardee lived and breathed. Nobody
got this across better than the first act, Phil Kay. But the bearded
Scots comedian also managed to get most of the emotional content into
why this show was happening - Malcolm was nice, but thats
not enough to get anyone else a room when they die - then both
saluted Hardees freeness and undercut his own portentousness.
While playing a guitar. With his trousers round his ankles. A joy.
The show peaked
early, after the impressionist Phil Cool and the veteran laconic comic
Norman Lovett followed Kay. Few of the lesser-known acts could raise
their acts this high. Doktor CocaColaMcDonalds, a bit of a talking
point at Edinburgh last year, was a bit of a drag here, as he laboriously
sang over Cassiotone keyboards.
In the second
act Hardees sister Clare sang Life is a Cabaret - with
gusto, if not in key, as Hardee himself once summed it up -
a couple of novelty acts tanked, before the young comedian Helen Keen
impressed, but more with her ready wit with hecklers than with her
OK material. So you were grateful for the capable Jo Brand to steady
a rocky ship and for a Riverdance routine that was really just
an excuse to get some hilarious eight-legged dancing dolls to sprong
around the stage.
wild-haired gag parade pretty much stole the show in the third act,
although Simon Munnerys closing set was a reminder of what a
sensational comic brain he has.
The great acts tipped the balance with the dross. But if this is to remain an annual event, its going to have to develop a character all of its own. At the end Martin Soan came on alone, naked but for a pair of balloons - the nude balloon act that was Hardees defining routine. Its not quite the same without Malcolm, really, is it? he muttered. Next years show, if there is one, has to be a fresh start.