EFR - Reviews of Paul Ricketts' West End Story

Paul Ricketts' West End Story

Mon 4th – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Tania Nicole Clarke

at 23:56 on 10th Aug 2014

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Seated upstairs in the gloriously grungy attic of The Mash House, I am told tonight is a big one. It’s a big one because we are all gathered together for a celebration; today is Paul Ricketts’ birthday. In actual fact, every day is Paul Ricketts’ birthday, and this bonkers stand-up show explains why.

From the beginning it’s difficult not to appreciate the natural charisma and cheeky-chappy charm of the London comedian. Ricketts commences his show by sauntering jauntily down the aisle, pint in hand, and hops onto the stage announcing: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage… me!”

The show gradually unravels neatly-woven vignettes which piece together what Ricketts calls ‘The Birthday Blag’. Each tale is introduced as its own individual phase of the Birthday Blag, and is performed with absolute sincerity as Ricketts animates every character and paints a full picture of mid 1990's London, Soho. Never mind sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, Ricketts is concerned only by feral Wombles, drugged-up hipsters and NightBus antics, and he seasons accordingly with a light sprinkling of political banter, romance-gone-wrong and flamenco tunes.

With the assistance of soundscapes, subtle lighting and a hanging picture frame inside which multimedia clips are projected, Ricketts guides us carefully through his story, explaining how he came to the conclusion that every day is his birthday. Along the way he shares with us his observations of 1990’s London, including his experiences of printed pornography and his classier reminiscing of a smokin' hot date of southern fried heaven at The Chicken Cottage. Everyone’s a winner. A particular highlight has to be Ricketts’ recital of the four different styles of cockney accents used in EastEnders, which are harrowingly realistic.

The audience are stunned by the believability of Ricketts’ bizarre Soho tales, and by the end of the show we are conned into investing in the overarching gambit of the show, which is essentially: live each and every day as if it is your birthday. Admittedly I was so won over by this premise that I was very nearly sucked into the business deal at the end of the show; to buy a souvenir birthday badge to remind me that every day could be my birthday too. We never truly learn how much of Ricketts’ story is autobiographical, but we don’t care because we’re having so much fun.

Whether you are soggy, sober and in need of some light-hearted Sunday night entertainment, or mildly tipsy and in search of a pick-me-up, Ricketts keeps us hooked for an hour of rib-tickling storytelling, and wraps it up nicely with a motto that is well-suited to the Fringe as he exclaims “embrace the random!”

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Rob Collins

at 10:54 on 11th Aug 2014

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Within the first five minutes of West End Story one thing becomes very obvious: Paul Ricketts is not your average comedian and this, not your average show. Over the course of one hour, he delivers a charming celebration of London and, in particular, Soho through a series of stories, both long and short, quirky and downright barmy.

With plenty of energy from the start, Ricketts very quickly wins over his (in this instance; drunk and fairly rowdy) audience and commands their full attention. Opening with more observational based comedy covering flyering and a particularly strong section about the different types of cockney on Eastenders, he is preparing his audience, drawing them into his world before the overall theme of the show is revealed.

Set in Soho in the mid 1990s, the stories follow Ricketts’ desire to “embrace the random” through his exploits and adventures in the seedier parts of London all for a budget of five pounds. Stitched into these tales are loving references to London 1990s culture and a subtle political edge as Ricketts gives us his take on everything from John Major to the appropriation of parts of London by hipsters.

Yet there is a tongue in cheek under-layer to Ricketts’ performance that prevents the show from ever becoming self righteous and his disarming charm and the twinkle in his eye means the audience never quite minds being taken in by his blags and cons. More than that, he is a staunch defender of what he perceives to be people’s least favourite aspects of London, such as the night bus and Chicken Cottage.

Ricketts is a born storyteller managing to spice up even the more mundane subjects with flair and panache. The use of multimedia is also a strong aspect of the show. A screen at the back and the use of sound effects add a vibrancy to Ricketts’ already vivid storytelling yet never distract or feel gimmicky.

There is also an undeniable feel-good aspect to this show. Regardless of how much of each of the stories are true, (something which is never clear or, frankly, important), Ricketts' message is clear: embrace the random. Live, as he does, everyday like it’s your birthday whether this leads to a free drink or, as in one instance during the show, watching porn whilst listening to Wagner with an internationally famous musician in a villa in Mexico.

Weird and wonderful from start to finish, this is a must see.

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