The theatre was packed. The moment Tom Allen arrived on stage, I could only hear Lord Peter Wimsey’s voice in my head, talking about Mr Willis from Murder Must Advertise. “And he wears, I deeply regret to say, a double breasted waistcoat. That is the most sinister thing about him.”
That is by no means the most sinister thing about Tom Allen.
The support act was provided by George Lewis.
When Tom Allen came back, he did a stint of interacting with the audience, in an ironic way. He asked people what they were called, what they did for a living, another question about what they did which was calculated to confuse them, and then said something mildly disparaging. This is a formula that works very well, and Tom Allen does it to a tee. He asked somebody, as a follow-up question, ‘What is your favourite council tax band?’
He identified Terry, and then James, who happened to be sitting next to Terry, and they turned out to be married, to each other, and had been together for 22 years.
When he gets going, Tom Allen’s delivery is fast, supremely skilful, and it pauses in unexpected places, but for reasons that become clear. Tom Allen generates comedic tension not just from what he is saying, but from the way he is saying it, as well. When you get the two things together, you know you are listening to a real stand-up comedian.
Tom Allen does what stand-up comedians have to do, which is make a believable world which is about them, make everything important about them. Tom Allen’s world is a place that has problems, but which many of the audience, including me, would have liked to inhabit.
This is rather a short review, because I was too busy listening to Tom Allen’s act to make many notes, and, when I did make notes, it was too dark in the Theatre Royal for me to write clearly.