David Baddiel - Fame: Not The Musical

Our critics rating: 
Friday, 02 May, 2014
Review by: 
Mark Shenton

In 1993, at the age of 29, David Baddiel and his then-comedy partner Rob Newman blazed a particular trail when they became the first comedy act to play Wembley Arena, which as The Independent said at the time, is "a 12,000-capacity venue normally associated with rock concerts and the Horse of the Year Show."

Now, 21 years later, and about to turn 50 later this month, Baddiel (who has since become a novelist and screenplay writer) is back on the comedy circuit for the first time with his full-length stand-up show for 15 years -- and playing the rather more modest Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark (seating capacity: just 180).

Actually, it's not so much stand-up as a structured illustrated lecture -- much in the way of Dave Gorman's laptop assisted shows, in which the screen becomes populated with numerous other real-life characters. In-between Wembley Arena and the Menier, life and Baddiel's career in the insulated bubble of fame and celebrity has taught him a lot -- mainly about fame and celebrity. Of course, nowadays its less cosy than it once was: comedy performers have always had their hecklers, but never as unsolicited, relentless and virulent as the sort that comes via Twitter.

A large part of Baddiel's show is drawn from these interactions, and he invites yet more as he asks the audience to tweet him during the interval. (I resisted, but tweeted after the show about the appalling service in the Menier restaurant, and Baddiel politely tweeted back a personal apology, though it had nothing to do with him. But Twitter does work: the Menier management also wrote with an apology and investigated what happened fully).

So the world is more fully interactive than it was, and the lives of the famous and the public overlap more than ever. But even more gripping here are the interactions between the famous (Baddiel) and the more famous, from Andrew Lloyd Webber's mistaking of him for Ben Elton (even though Lloyd Webber has actually written a show with Elton, The Beautiful Game that is currently being revived at London's Union Theatre, near the Menier), to his own encounters with the likes of Peter Gabriel and Madonna.

Even celebrities are fascinated by celebrities. But as Baddiel shows in this mature, reflective show, it's a complex and far from complete view that's on public display. At the Menier, he's offering compelling insights from the other side of the celebrity mirror.


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