Theatre review: Bill Bailey in Qualmpeddler

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The talented Bill Bailey is one of those funny men who can completely break me of stand-up comedian fatigue.

It is just my viewpoint, but I always think that comedians have captive audiences. Yes, they may be heckled or largely disliked, but there will always be people who laugh politely no matter how badly performed the show is.

And too many stand-ups fail to come up with anything genuinely funny as they are too busy squeezing as many swear words, sex references and general toilet humour jokes into their minutes on stage. Snore.

Former Black Books star Bill Bailey is not one of these, when on stage he employs the brain and expects his audience to do the same.

Last night I went to see Bill’s latest show, Qualmpeddler - the first of two he is performing in Northampton - at the Royal & Derngate.

The wonderful thing about Bill’s performances is that he takes audiences on an unexpected journey; you do not know what he is going to do or say next.

At one point he will be playing an instrument most audience members will never have heard of and then at another moment he will be talking about his war against mnemonics and the sadness of the text-speak ‘lol’ taking the place of actual laughter in real life.

More laughs were created by his reggae performance of Downton Abbey’s theme music.

Linguistically creative and never foul-mouthed, I found myself laughing at Bill’s antics from start to finish.

But there was a hint of sadness to the show. I won’t give away the ending, but Bill’s tale of a real life encounter he had with a live owl he saw being sold for food in a restaurant in China was really thought provoking. I’m no vegetarian, but living in a world filled with TV ‘foodies’ who smilingly sneer at vegetarian food yet probably rarely spare a thought for the back story of the creatures on their plate, it really made me think about how many animals are suffering out there right now, for the sake of human greed.

This was possibly more than Bill intended his audience to take away from the show, but it is perhaps testament to how good comedy can make people think.

Bill will be back at the Royal & Derngate on May 31, although this show is sold out. Contact 01604 624811 for details about the waiting list.