- Suited & Booted: Lee Nelson – Review
- Star rating: *****
- Beck Theatre
- Sunday 8th November 2015
Lee Nelson dropped his shorts on stage. Well not literally in front of the audience. That would be rude. However he has replaced his customary shorts with a good, sharp suit instead. Yes indeed, for here at the Beck Theatre was the new incarnation of Lee Nelson. Shorn, not just of the shorts, but the trainers, short-sleeved shirt and baseball cap as well. I, like many in this packed West London theatre, was keen to find out what this meant for his style of comedy. Was this going to reveal a more mature, grown up comedian or the same Lee Nelson but just in a suit? Let’s find out.
After walking on to a rapturous welcome Nelson proceeded to get know his audience. He chatted to a few couples and an Asian family out for a night out. All very good, cheeky, harmless banter, especially getting ‘Mr (Asian) Serious’ to relax for the night. Spotting some very young and not so young attendees he proceeds to find out who are the youngest and oldest fans in the house. Weighing in at just 14 years old was Rees. Not too far away was a 15 year old guy, plus a 74 year old woman in the front row and 79 year old Pete a bit further back. The four of them became mini-stars of the show from here on and Nelson engaged in great banter that resulted in some cracking wisecracks, especially re Ms 74 who, upon request, was able to get up, pass Nelson her walking stick and sit back down without any trouble. Nelson clocked that and a short time later came back with a beautiful line that caused tears of laughter to roll down my face. That one will live long in the memory. Though he has a fantastic repertoire of witty jokes, his audience interactions always seem to bring out the best in him.
Moving on from that there was a fair bit of material about Nelson being a father. He’s often joked about this so I’m never quite sure if he really is or if it’s just made up. Either way, it generates pretty funny jokes.
There’s something about the cheeky, very risqué yet harmless banter that attracts all age groups and demographics to his shows. Whether it’s his live gigs or TV shows you’ll always see a vast spectrum of ages and races present. He definitely epitomised lad culture in his Lee Nelson show day’s pomp. He still does to an extent but it’s a little bit toned down for ‘Suited & Booted.’ This time round, we are presented with a slightly more mature Nelson, interested in exploring the joys and pains of parenthood, politics (just a little) and life in general. Notwithstanding that he still is more or less the same cheeky chappy guy, but not quite so frequently as crude and leery as before.
His old mucker Omelette is not part of this show and neither are the quizzes that used to form a staple of his old shows. I say hurrah for that as, though they certainly added something original to his show, this leaves the focus entirely on Nelson and the audience and whatever magic they can create in the moment.
The second half of the show threatened to get out of control – what on earth did they put in the interval drinks – with much heckling going on? Fortunately Nelson handled it very well and quickly stamped his control on the show. In the past audience heckles would have gone on for too long spoiling the flow. Suited & Booted Nelson wasn’t having any of that. Good. There was even a racist heckle regarding there being “lot’s of Somalians in Hayes.” Lee’s reply that, “You’re probably putting them off,” earned a warm round of applause and silenced the heckler.
One of the gags of the night related to the current state of police shootings of innocent African-American men. Serious social commentary. Comedy gold. Point well made.
There wasn’t much in the way of a UK wide or international audience – this is Hayes after all. Nelson seemed eager to find those from further afield than Hayes and West London but struggled. We had folks from Newcastle, Sunderland, Dublin and Fife in the house and that seemed to be it.
Overall this show was great fun. Cheeky and irreverent as ever. Definitely too near the knuckle at times. For example, I think it was uncalled for to call Rees’ mother a “c***” for punishing her son for a misdemeanour. She was sat between Rees and her husband, which must have made it all the more embarrassing for them, but I guess funny for much of the audience who will have revelled in their embarrassment. I guess he’s trying to be funny and perhaps making a point that he’s show isn’t for young teenagers. I think Nelson’s shows should be 17+ but you do always get the youngsters at such shows out for a night with their parents.
On this showing I don’t see the suited Nelson being booted off the stage or TV anytime soon. This is Nelson taking the first small steps towards his act becoming slightly more political and a little less laddish. I’ve always loved the laddish Lee Nelson and think there’s certainly room for that on the comedy scene, especially as there aren’t many who carry it off in the way he does. It’s original, very daring and extremely risqué, yet he stays on the right side of being cheeky and charming with it. As a result he has created a family friendly appeal about himself that has served him very well as a live performer and TV star.
Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town
Photograph © Lee Nelson