Nic Wright

Review: Harry Hill: Sausage Time – Theatre Royal, Newcastle

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Despite having ditched his long-running ITV show TV Burp, Harry Hill is well aware of what his audience wants. You might think that, free of the labour-intensive shackles of producing frequent examinations of the week’s telly, Hill would’ve seized the opportunity to do something new with his return to the stage. You’d be wrong. For better or worse, tonight Hill reproduces the same juvenile lunacy that made him a household name.

Clambering onto the Theatre Royal’s stage from the wings, obscured by a large mattress, Hill arrives in the way he means to go on; baffling, mildly amusing and without rhyme or reason of any kind. With many comics content to take the path of persecution and aggravation to get laughs, it’s admirable that there are some acts still endeavoring toward the silly, the simple and the innocuous.

But as a result, Sausage Time is a mixed bag. Ridiculousness without substance can be a beautiful thing, as displayed when a man in an over-sized ice cream costume darts across the stage for no other reason than to remind Hill that his first half is almost up. But then again, it also highlights a show with more money than sense – or quality writing behind it.

Structurally, Sausage Time plays like having the thoughts of a sugar-addled child on shuffle for two hours. Bursts of pop songs are scattered among long-winded jokes with little pay-off, the haphazard tuning of a ukulele, and a frankly uncomfortable rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody in Tongan.

Though there are a few stabs at topicality, most of Hill’s cold, hard gags fall flat, and his heavy reliance on props – and the wheeling-out of old telly tricks – suggests a degree of complacency. Which is a shame, as there’s some moments of inspired idiocy to be enjoyed here, and spectacle you’re unlikely to catch anywhere else on such a circus-like scale.

What’s absolutely undeniable though, is that, in spite of his advancing years, Hill performs his shtick with commendable zeal. Whether he’s drenching himself with water halfway through his show, wrestling with a large, hirsute gentleman in a leotard, or (accidentally) diving head-first into the front row, Hill really puts his back into his slapstick display. Sausage Time is a health and safety officer’s worst nightmare – and a comedy fan’s noisy disappointment.

“There must be a better way to earn a living,” Hill groans as he untangles himself from the audience, soaking wet and smarting. I couldn’t say, but there’s probably a better way to spend your Saturday night.

Date of live review: Saturday 16 March 2013