Phil Wang: The Atkinson, Soutport
The up and coming Malaysian-English comic came to Southport’s Atkinson, and Alan Parry found the young comedian performing beyond his years.
On what was probably the coldest night of the year to this point, Phil Wang brought his latest show to The Atkinson, Southport, warming us all up in the process.
During two thirty-minute segments, he covered just about everything from plain silly toilet humour, to genuine thought provoking material about politics, race, gender and empire. And he did so with consummate ease, and the authority one would expect of an artist much older than his meagre 28 years.
The first thing I want to say, is that almost everything was informed by his race. From the pre-show, and half-time background music, which included Kim Wilde’s Cambodia and Tokyo Town by Sarah, to his stance on Brexit and the legacy of the British Empire. But, and this may be the most important thing I write, this never once became tiresome, or awkward. For me, this was his greatest achievement of the night.
There are many other artists out there who struggle to balance the weight of what they are saying, with the way in which it is delivered. Wang chose to spend the opening 30 minutes putting us at ease, before coming back after the break with a much more overtly political second half.
This was an incredibly mature performance, from this fully-fledged adult, who is smashing it by the way, living the immigrant dream. And we are left in no doubt about his adulthood as he tells us about his lube purchasing rite of passage which resulted in him screaming in Waitrose about not being able to get women wet naturally before him being given a final warning by the supermarket’s staff. He’s joking of course, or at least I hope he was.
No, the maturity of which I write is perhaps better evidenced by his handling of the thorny subject of the British Empire, something which he is maybe surprisingly for some an advocate of. But, as he says, from our positions of privilege, we should not be so hasty when judging opinions of those from the developing world. And when he told us that his grandfather was twice saved by the empire, his position becomes more understandable.
But, for all of this, Wang never forgets that he is a comedian first, and he spent approximately five minutes telling us that would be happy to die of mouth cancer, if contracted from performing an enormous amount of oral sex on a woman. A truly heroic death that would be.
His technique, which sees him swift between the deep and meaningful and the frivolous has been honed to a fine art. No matter how trivial one routine may appear to be on the surface, it is undoubtedly imbued with considerable historical context.
Wang brought the show to a conclusion by again referencing the British Empire, this time its sheer size and success, and he draws comparisons with the EU. He tells us he was saddened that we as a nation threw away our one real chance at creating the biggest empire in history built on peace. And he warns us, that China is more than a country, but an empire in waiting. China be coming! And when it arrives, you can expect old Chitty Chitty Wang Wang to switch allegiances as swiftly and intelligently as he switched between the light and the heavy all-night long.