Jonathan Pie at Bloomsbury Theatre review: full-blooded, but bitesize was better

·2-min read
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YouTube star Jonathan Pie certainly hit his stride quickly onstage last night. I’m not sure if the spoof news reporter took a breath in the first few minutes of his Fake News (Corona Remix) set. He seemed too busy ripping into the state of the nation in general and Matt Hancock in particular to think about breathing.

In fact talking first and thinking later is one of the themes of this enjoyable if uneven evening. It is part of the reason, Pie explains to the audience, that he is currently unemployed. A momentary verbal lapse during a Zoom broadcast has scuppered his career. Has wokeness finally wiped out the perma-fuming character played by actor Tom Walker?

The show takes the form of a talk as Pie stands behind a lecturn for large sections, raging against the way the world has changed. Times were simpler when he was younger, he says. You could speak freely back then. Now, say the wrong thing and you are a victim of cancel culture. Or, rather, "consequence culture".

This serio-comic lecture is peppered with weapons grade invective as our host takes aim at what he sees as latterday lunacy. "When did everyone’s opinions start being valid?" he asks. If we are going to pull down the statues of people that supported slavery where does it end? Do we remove statues of Roman emperors who had slaves?

You cannot fault Walker’s powerhouse performance, but sometimes the writing needs tightening. When Pie mentions his father dying during lockdown and having to have a Zoom funeral the gear change clunks. While one assumes this is another part of the character’s fictional back story, it does not sit comfortably alongside the less personal material.

Another issue is the rundown of familiar pandemic bullet points. Pie first toured a version of this pre-virus and one way it has been updated is by referencing Covid. Did they really need to revisit such well-trodden terrain? I would be quite happy if I never heard another joke about panic-buying toilet rolls.

The result is a full-blooded if flawed satirical diatribe that declares war on woke and says that society has lost its way, without fully explaining where we go next. Plenty of provocative food for thought, though for comic nourishment Pie’s more concise topical YouTube outbursts are tastier.

Oct 14 & 17-21; jonathanpie.com

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