Milton Jones “Is Out There” at Shanklin Theatre review ****

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Milton Jones: Is Out There

Shanklin Theatre, 16th February 2018

The sunniest place in Britain is Shanklin. Fact. Don’t be deceived by imposters on the South Coast claiming this accolade. It is Shanklin. And, as any fool knows, the Isle of Wight is a paradise on Earth. Beautiful scenery, fascinating history, plenty to do, loads of places to eat, proper British beaches.

Now I admit Shanklin itself is not at the cutting edge of holiday fashion. But if you like crazy golf, amusement arcades, ice-cream, fish and chips, sand between your toes and brutalist lift structures, (to take you down to the front), then this is the place for you. And not too far away is, IMHO, the best eatery in Britain, in the form of the Taverners in Godshill.

Shanklin Theatre, like the town itself, and the IoW, is a bit rough around the edges. That’s why I like it. It’s a proper old style theatre which does a nice line in am-dram, tribute bands and, especially, comedy, and serves the town well.

So, as this is the Tourist’s home away from home, this is where he the SO and LD chose to see the unique wordsmith that is Milton Jones. The regular reader of this blog may be aware that the Tourist’s tolerance for stand-up comedians is low. Milton Jones though is on the approved list along with Lee, Christie, Kitson and Vine. Most of then are just way too lazy in their choice of material. This is not a criticism that can be levelled at Mr Jones. The madcap exterior belies a fierce intelligence. In this latest show he adopts the device of an off-stage publicist putting him up for all suits of unsuitable comedy job opportunities. That is the, admittedly, tenuous thread that holds the show together.

Oh that and Brexit. Now for those that know Milton Jones from previous shows or from his turns on the telly might be surprised that he incorporates the issue de jour. However there is, and has always been, a layer of absurdist satire beneath the wacky wordplay and he puts it to good use here. Which, in the context of the IoW, a firm Leave bastion, created a little bit of enjoyable frisson in the air. This was helped by some adept put-downs from support act Chris Stokes aimed at a bone-headed heckler. Livened his act up immensely and even gave Milton Jones something to work with.

Now the real pleasure in an MJ show, in addition to his brilliant ideas, is hearing the audience react. I get the majority of the jokes, but there are a few that get away, and some that require a little time to sink in. Multiply these reaction times by a few hundred, combined with the pace of MJ’s delivery, and it means that, with a few pauses, the laughter is pretty much continuous. I can’t pretend that many of the lines stick, blame the Tourist’s faltering memory, but no matter, when the pleasure is in just being there.

There are still a couple of months left on the tour. If he is coming anywhere near you just go. You will be hard pressed to find a funnier 90 minutes or so of entertainment anywhere else.

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