The Catherine Tate Show Live – how’s that going to work, then? That’s what we wondered when asked to accompany Our Mam to Colston Hall to see the comedienne who rose to fame during the mid-noughties with her sharply observed, widely recognisable but not always palatable characters – and whose catchphrases spread across the country like viruses in a hospital waiting room.
We assumed she’d be on her own, like a stand-up, for a start, which isn’t the case. Brought to life by a compact cast including Gavin and Stacey’s Mathew Horne, who appears in the original televised series, Catherine’s live show is also facilitated by segue video sketches that play out on a screen above the stage and allow the necessary set and costume changes to take place. It’s an effective device, especially with Radio One DJ Nick Grimshaw roped in to provide a platform for one of Tate’s best loved personas, the expletive-spitting Joannie ‘Nan’ Taylor, to shine in a new context, having won a radio competition to attend Tate’s show.
Flawless accent work and meticulous characterisation, as always, underpin the premise of the show. The fact that Tate is also hot on her physical comedy greatly benefits the live incarnation. It’s particularly evidenced by a sketch that sees Derek Faye, the ever-so camp gent who seems somewhat in denial, head to his polling station to vote for his local politician, who he later discovers, to his dismay, is gay, and hurries off down The Queen Shilling (nice touch) before last orders.
Local references abound – “Banksy, am I bovvered? Suspension Bridge, does my face look bovvered? Massive Attack, bovvered?” sneers one familiar face in school uniform and long red pony tail – and while some sketches have their flat moments, there are numerous new ideas, such as a rather mad Frankie Howard/Macbeth soliloquy, and highlights come thick and fast. Our favourite is the John Reilly’s Mum skit, which sees Tate mischievously stalk the stage as the hard-faced Northern Irish woman, in search of audience participation and with her ever-reluctant, painfully shy son’s first kiss in mind.
Tate never shies away from serious issues, even delivering a politically charged message to conclude the show (which we almost fall for, for a second), declaring 2016 – barefoot, her long red hair flowing – to have been a difficult, tumultuous year, and asking the audience to support those most oppressed among us, the ‘gingers’. Titter.
The Catherine Tate Show Live: Absolutely bonkers, but smart, witty and a whole lot of fun.