Miles Jupp at the Duchess Theatre review: his brush with mortality makes for jaw achingly funny comedy

 (Steve Best)
(Steve Best)

Miles Jupp is the latest in an ever-increasing circle of comedians discussing their brushes with mortality. Following Richard Herring, Rhod Gilbert and Janey Godley tackling cancer, in On I Bang, the ever-droll Jupp tells the story of his brain tumour journey.

After a soft-spoken anecdote recalling a chaotic family holiday in Wales, Jupp cuts to the chase. While filming ITV1 drama Trigger Point in 2021 he suffered a seizure.

Dazzling multicoloured lights – "like a terror attack in M&M World" – and the next thing he knew he was in hospital. Strap in for a jaw-achingly funny tale of staring death in the face while still getting annoyed by your wife's clutter.

His account of the actual seizure is relatively brief. Perhaps because Jupp, suited, booted and charming, cannot recall much. What he makes a point of mentioning is that it could have occurred at any time. If it was bad luck to have a brain seizure it was incredibly good luck that it occurred where there was first aid on tap and a hospital nearby.

The central core of his monologue is the subsequent operation to have the growth removed. It was risky, but as with Richard Herring's on his testicular cancer, there isn't much jeopardy because we know that he survived. It is a testament to Jupp's consummate performance skills that we are still utterly drawn in.

And frankly, serious illness can be a fertile source for humour. There's the obligatory comedy of embarrassment here when it comes to rectal swabs and a moment of mass wincing from male audience members during an account of having a catheter fitted so that he does not have to visit the toilet. Only the genial Jupp could describe this as "fabulously decadent."

Not a word is wasted, whether painting a picture of the perpetual anarchy of juggling five children or describing his medical treatment. The morbid wit is scalpel sharp. His operation was scheduled quickly, he says, because they had a "cancellation". What, he wonders, might cause the cancellation of a brain operation...

Jupp's close call has certainly given him something meaty to get his teeth into. Beneath the calm exterior, there is an appealing penchant for pedantry and annoyance. Every time he is asked for details of his bowel movements you can sense his irritation gauge rising.

One can easily imagine On I Bang as a radio play. But it could also work on screen. Lest we forget, Jupp is an actor when not a comedian. If it is ever made into a film you don't have to be a brain surgeon to guess who would be perfect to play the lead.