Tuesday 12 December 2017

Review: Russell Brand, Dublin Olympia Theatre

Ed Power

Ed Power

Russell Brand is the celebrity world equivalent of the smoke-smudged, flack-jacketed war correspondent.

He's been embedded deep within the fame industry, first as a scandalous comedian, then as up and coming movie star and, until last year, Mr Katy Perry. Like Martin Sheen's character in Apocalypse Now, Brand has gone upriver and witnessed some terrible things. His adventures as a highly self aware member of the A-List mean he is the ideal candidate to hold forth on the damaging effects of the cult of personality. Brand delves into the subject in his latest show, Messiah Complex, illuminating his points with reference to four cast-iron "celebs" from bygone eras, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Che Guevara and Malcolm X (what a Heat magazine cover montage they would have made).

Behind his well documented hubris, Brand has a huge earnest streak.

This was brought forcefully home by a a toe-curling recent interview with BBC current affairs programme Newsnight in which, having admitted he doesn't vote, Brand doe-eyedly demanded the establishment of a new global order, leading fellow comedian Robert Webb to wonder aloud whether Brand was familiar with the circumstances in which Hitler and Stalin were swept to power.

In gleaming white suit Brand applies the full strength of his charisma as he struts out to the strains of Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus, looking like a cartoon dandy in need of a solid night's sleep (it's hard to tell if his hair has been styled to death or dragged backwards through a clothing rail).

The evening begins with 20 minutes of scripted inanity. Brand plunges into the crowd, collecting bear-hugs and hand-made gifts. At one stage, there's a collective intake of breath as a protestor dressed as Wonder Woman rants about flouride in the water – before asking if she can have a better seat.

Then we're into the meat of the performance and Brand's giddy mix of high and low culture. Quotations from Nietzsche and Wittgenstein share airtime with jokes about Brand's intimate relationship with his mother's Henry Hoover vacuum cleaner; one moment he is talking about Malcolm X's ability to calm a restless mob, the next spinning an anecdote about his arrest for public nudity at an antiwar protest.

A beacon of Hollywood glamour, such is Brand's sheer, blinding likeability, it seems almost beside the point that his insights really aren't all that insightful (fame is a monster, authority figures are not to be trusted etc). Messiah Complex may not have anything dazzlingly original to say – but it lands its punches all the same.

Irish Independent

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