Review: Mirth master Merton’s new offering falls flat
Paul Merton, Our of My Head, Ipswich Regent
He is known for his deadpan, surreal humour and enduring association with long-running satirical quiz Have I Got News for You.
Last night Paul Merton’s Out of My Head tour – his first solo routine in more than a decade – arrived at the Ipswich Regent.
Merton was joined by Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster, all part of the Impro Chums line-up which has entertained Ipswich on previous occasions.
The evening was billed as a chance to “discover the bizarre workings of Paul Merton’s brain, as he muses on the mighty behemoth that is his noggin”.
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And his remarkable mind threw up some truly odd chapters of his life – a trip to a sex shop, a spell at the Maudsley psychiatric hospital and his earliest childhood memory - all captured in a series of sketches and improvisation with some ventriloquism thrown into the mix.
With a stripping ultra-violet nun, a steam room skit and a scene featuring the Duchess of Cornwall being eaten by a snake, not every routine hit the mark, while some seemed to simply fail to reach a conclusion, but the quartet’s whimsical approach and Merton’s storytelling kept things moving.
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Yet the evening felt over-scripted; Merton is a master off the off-the-cuff quip, as millions of BBC viewers will attest, but there was a reliance on weak innuendo and rather dated gags, while some parts of the show seemed under-rehearsed and in need of trimming.
His travels back to his early years featured amusing recollections of primary school teacher Sister Galista but the arrival – and repeated use – of ventriloquist’s dummy “Little Paul” fell flat.
A drawn-out game about teaching giraffes to play croquet was among the most awkward of the night.
Merton clearly has interesting views on mental health. However they were lost in a succession of stilted scenes and a tiresome sketch involving a gigantic sperm.
Having enjoyed the Impro Chums on a prior visit to Ipswich, last night’s show was a disappointment and Merton, as we all know, is capable of so much more.
Many will have left the Regent entertained, but the project is an ambitious, uneasy marriage of stand-up, sketch and musical comedy that fails to make the most of Merton’s masterful talents.