Saturday, February 21, 2015

Gig Review: Eddie Izzard - Force Majeure - at Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, 15 February 2015

A “Force Majeure” is often used as a get-out clause in building or construction contracts. It’s considered something like an “act of God”, or something representative of an irresistible or “superior” force. I’m not really sure what it means in layman’s terms but it nonetheless seems like an appropriate handle for a self-proclaimed “action transvestite” to travel the world with. It all makes perfect sense, darling.

It was the Force Majeure tour that brought heel-wearing English comedian Eddie Izzard to Wellington for the fourth time last weekend. I was lucky enough to have caught his act on one other occasion, at the State Opera House, way back in 2003. His other visits to the capital came in 2000, as part of the Laugh! Festival, and more recently in 2011, when his Stripped tour brought him to the St James Theatre. I was at the MFC last Sunday night, alongside a near full house, which followed a sold out Saturday night show at the same venue.

I worried pre-gig that I'd watched too much Eddie Izzard concert footage over the years and I'd be a little too familiar with some of his material. That turned out to be an unfounded fear - there was a crossover of some themes, and one or two specific topics (cake, ice cream), but this was mostly all new material.

Knowing what to expect from Izzard may actually be an advantage - any newbie might be inclined to wonder if he'll ever get to the point or reveal the punchline, but Izzard's clever and seemingly random stream of consciousness rambling frequently offers up some of his best work. Sunday night was no exception.

Historical figures - ranging from the diverse old-timer likes of Genghis Khan and Charles 1 to relatively contemporary figures like Hitler and Maggie Thatcher - provided Izzard with plenty of quality material, each crossing over (to one extent or another) into the twin themes of politics and religion. And when it comes to comedy, subject matter seldom comes much richer than that.

There were elements of physical comedy in Izzard's act but mostly it was all about intelligent observational humour. There were short segments in French and German, reminders that Izzard is multilingual, and that he’s performed entire shows in those languages in the past.

I wasn’t surprised to hear Izzard confirm his intention to enter politics, with the race for the 2020 London mayoralty likely to present him with his initial fresh challenge in that sphere. He’s achieved just about everything there is to achieve as a performance artist, not only as a stand-up, but also through a wide range of television and film roles. His energy and thirst to “make a difference” (man) apparently knows no bounds.

Anybody who - as a complete novice - can run 43 marathons in 51 days (as Izzard did a few years back) to raise money for Comic Relief, demonstrates a level of determination most of us can only dream about. You might even conclude he’s driven by some kind of superior force …

So it was a pretty sweet couple of hours in Izzard’s company on Sunday night, even with the odd fluffed line and one or two relatively flat moments, knowing that at some point in the near future he’ll just as likely be lost to the stage forever.

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