Tom Allen: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
On 6th September Tom Allen bought his sharp suit and sharper wit to Liverpool’s historic Epstein Theatre. Planet Slop’s Gary Dougherty was there to witness a stellar performance.
Having already bagged a career as an actor, starring alongside the likes of Hugh Laurie, Gemma Arterton and Joanna Lumley, Tom appears to be focusing on comedy and reaching his goal of being a gay stereotype ‘a 35 year old man, living with his parents‘.
He is currently riding high on the back of his success at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017 and is touring the UK with his show Absolutely. So one could say he’s nailing it on the comedy front; and by his own admission he’s got the gay stereotype in the bag too (yes he does still live with his parents).
But laced through his material are the hallmarks of a great comedian, those observations on the ludicrousness of life that bring us all together.
Dressed with his typical sartorial elegance in a three-piece suit, Tom looked entirely at home in the neo-classical interior of the Epstein. Dispensing with the usual comedy warm-up act he launches his routine with the familiar audience questions sessions.
Many comics engage in this audience banter and it has been a regular part of many a comedy act in the past. With Tom though it’s different, yes if you’re unfortunate enough to have sat in the front row he will pick on you, but his jibes aren’t cruel and he’ll weave you into the act in a way you haven’t seen or heard before.
What also impressed was his knowledge of the local area; Knutsford, Crosby, and Southport weren’t just random places to him; he clearly knew where they are and what sort of place they are. Although perhaps the couple from Knutsford wish he didn’t, as they became the butt of many a ‘posh people’ joke. The homework was appreciated.
Now of course Tom’s sexuality is no secret and it features numerous times throughout the act. In particular, it’s in his recanting of Jesus’ famous oratory The Sermon on the Mount. Now for those Planet Slop readers who aren’t up on their bible studies, this is the one in which Jesus tells us how blessed are the poor and blessed are the meek etc. Tom has struggled to find that missing line from this speech in which Jesus adds “But I hate those fucking gays!“.
Through his almost two hours on stage Tom regales us with stories from his childhood; of being gay number two at a hen do; the joys of the leisure centres built in the late 1990’s with their sub-tropical atmospheres and water slides designed to mutilate those unfortunate enough to attempt to ride them. We hear of trips to France with the school choir and singing the Muppet Show theme (in French) to some rather bemused pensioners. We hear of bland buffets, guacamole classes and the perils of being a teacher. For some reason ham keeps cropping up, lots of ham!
There are moments during the performance when we are reminded of the wonderful rants of John Cleese in movies like Clockwise or The Life of Brian. However, what makes Tom stand out from others is that the routine is not a simple series of jokes and funny stories.
In a way that reminded me of the comedy greats like Dave Allen, Billy Connolly and Ronnie Corbett, Tom weaves a common thread through the act and punchlines or themes you heard earlier are seamlessly brought back as the night progresses. Even the audience members he singled out earlier (whose names he has taken the trouble to remember) are cleverly brought back in. Tom gives the illusion that much of the act is ad libbed, some of it certainly is, but it seems too coherent for there not to be a plan. It is this that shows his true comic genius.
Fear not if you were unfortunate enough to miss out, Tom Allen returns to the Epstein by popular demand on the October 18th. Tickets available through the theatre’s website here.