Man, Rambo and a hot pasty

On the way to MANhood: Nathan Human (left) and Dan Edwards who make up Citizen598

MAN

Citizen598

The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham

****

IF you were to come across Sylvester Stallone in the queue for pasties in Greggs – topical or what – what would you say if he asked, in passing, whether you preferred the Rocky or Rambo films?

Not a very likely scenario you might think but you never know. With every politician worth his soundbite rushing to be photographed with a Greggs' Cornish in his mitt to condemn/applaud (delete as appropriate depending upon party – or leave both if LibDem) the impending imposition of VAT, why shouldn't Sly get caught up in the rush?

So, just in case, have you any idea what you would do? Dan Edwards does. In fact he has written a play(let) about it which her performs with an albeit reluctant Nathan Human at the start of the examination of what made them what they are today in MAN.

The result, once the unVATed morsels of Greggs' Rocky Cakes have been finished,  is a ramble through such diverse, but strangely connected subjects as the conception of each one of us, for which Lionel Richie is not entirely blameless although All Night Long might be a tad on the optimistic side, infancy and the first encounters with school and dressing up, the mystique of beards, first loves and that right of juvenile passage, the first trips to the pub.

The pub in this case being a hostelry set like a jewel(ish) in a Leicester housing estate called The Trumpet..

In between this journey of discovery we have incidental discussions about accents, over-acting or in this case over-miming, whether monologues are taking over the show and a mental breakdown.

PAYING ATTENTION

The two 34-year-olds who make up Citizen598 are, they tell us former teachers, so, obviously, it is your own time you are wasting if you are not paying attention – but not paying attention is hardly an option.

The duo work hard to engage the audience in what is a mix of theatre, stand-up and story-telling. Like all comedy sets not everything has you rolling in the aisles  but there is so much packed into an hour and a quarter that if that line didn't find it's mark the next one is already on its way.

Laughter and humour are personal so some bits are always going to work better than others for different people and, despite being dressed up as comedy, part of the act relies upon your own experiences.

It relies on, for example, your recollection of Home and Away, your reaction to the thought of your parents actually . . . doing, you lnow . . . it. It relies on whether you went under age drinking in the sort of pub where the only ID required was the ability to pay for your drinks .

Inevitably for 34-year-olds, it would have been pints of lager. I am old enough to be from the best bitter generation. We had more taste. And, of course, it also depends upon whether you are a bloke or not or indeed had a Lionel Richie obsession.

If ever they want to build Richieland, a sort of Lionel Richie theme park, Leicester seems to be high on the list for possible locations.

The result of this meander to MANhood is not only at times very funny but also shakes a few memories off the dusty shelves in the back mind where they have been stored and forgotten, helped by a few visuals on a screen at the back of the stage.

The pair are engaging, work well together as a double act, one the, fairly,  straight man and one . . . well writing plays about meeting Rambo in Greggs, and the produce a set with enough theatre to be almost a play and enough laughs to happily be seen as stand-up all warmed with a dose of your own personal nostalgia.

They come over as two blokes going through life like most of the blokes in the audience used to do with their best mate at school. Even if we have lost touch with our best mate now, it still  buys us that shared ticket, admission to our own memories of growing up and becoming . . . well a MAN.

Produced by Sharon Forster MAN will reappear at the Guildhall Theatre in Derby on May 25 – unless of course Dan has run into Sly at Greggs by then.

Roger Clarke

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