Live At The Pinter at Harold Pinter Theatre review: an all-star comedy line-up shines


The comedy club vibe went posh this weekend with stand-up hijacking the Harold Pinter Theatre. Not that the performers were in awe of the venue. Brett Goldstein, star of football sitcom Ted Lasso, claimed he hated plays, though at one point during his set he said he was taking a pause between jokes, which was maybe a subtle tribute to Pinter himself, the master of the onstage hiatus.

First act was Aisling Bea, who has always been a livewire and now she knows why. She was recently diagnosed with ADHD, which on Saturday night seemed to have given her scattershot sense of silliness license to fly off in multiple directions.

She certainly had plenty to discuss, from bingeing on murder mysteries, psychics and her withering verdict on the new Prime Minister. Bea was all for more women in power, “But Liz Truss?” She riffed about social gaffes, including a buttock-clenchingly funny account of saying a very wrong thing to a senior figure in the #metoo movement.

London-based Athena Kugblenu raised the intellectual plimsoll line with a thoughtful extract from her latest show Shaking Her Class, which looked at the prickly subject of working out your sociological group. Kugblenu thinks she is middle class because she has a conservatory, despite her mum being a dinner lady. She did, added Kugblenu, always put the emphasis on “lady”...

Two weeks ago Brett Goldstein won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor as curmudgeonly coach Roy Kent in Ted Lasso. Having just returned to England he was perfectly poised to compare American and homegrown comedians. They are bursting with confidence, we are painfully apologetic. Pretty much the same as with male sexual technique, he concluded.

He did not talk about Roy Kent, but scored some winners with his ruminations on meditation and how his bank behaved like his parents when it saw him using his credit card abroad: “Where are you? When are you back?”

Headliner Simon Amstell delivered pithy anecdotes reflecting on the varied ways he has tried to find happiness. He has been considering adopting except that he wondered if he was ready for a baby, “I’ve only ever lived in flats. I haven’t even had stairs.”

His quest for enlightenment has taken him from fleeing to New York to visiting a Berlin sex club. He finally found inner peace after taking drugs in Peru. The audience discovered their nirvana without stimulants, merely by watching his self-deprecating routines.

Praise too for compere Lou Sanders, whose loopy, freewheeling style took in quips about stretch marks and skate parks and included an attempted cartwheel, bashing her head on landing. Plaudits for continuing to host after suffering for her art.