The Verse’s William Craigie reviews Russell Brand’s Show EXPOSED at the Theatre Royal Brighton on the 6th of December
Where did Russell Brand go for a year and half? He retired after the disastrous result of the 2015 general election during which, at the last minute, he endorsed Ed Miliband (a man he still appreciates even if he is said to look like “a professor conducting an experiment to turn himself into a horse and backed out halfway through”). Furthermore, that same year he had urged people not to vote, which some found to be a cop-out, in order to, as Brand said “screw up that election”. The result was a retreat from the public eye and a general disillusionment with politics, something he had been very much invested in for the prior two years. He wanted fame, and then found it was vacuous and empty. He researched politics and activism, only to find it was a hopeless, losing fight.
So where does that leave him now? As he only slightly references in the beginning, he became a father in only the last month, and he has returned to deliver sporadic episodes of the Trews and this brief tour Exposed. After the annus horribilis of 2016, Brand’s political and outlandish sense of humor is needed more than ever.
It does not have an overarching theme other than encouraging us to free ourselves from the shackles of an oppressive society and transcend to something higher through finding our truth self. This sounds like weighty stuff but like ever with Brand, it is not overbearing; indeed is repeated every so often to emphasis that this stand up show is minor in comparison to the wider picture. This can be found to be wishy-washy faux intellectualism, but I find it to be part of Brand’s appeal. He instills a sense of awareness in the audience about what is truly happening in the world and what can be done. He encourages them to think rather than watch passively and it still remains a very enjoyable and funny evening. Being the show not completely serious, some members of the audience answered to a questionnaire given when the tickets were purchased. These are cross-examined by Brand and, boy!, Brighton does have some interesting characters. Anecdotes range from a girl who pooed in a public shower and accidentally called an old lady a whore, to a man’s best sexual experience being having sex on a tractor. Of course there is a point to this; that we are all weird on the inside and should embrace this but it is anyway hilarious even if Brand has explored similar terrain before.
Another major topic of the show is Brand version of events regarding those political years. This includes Brand ripping himself apart over footage of his famous Paxman interview and Question Time Appearance (this is done to his Channel 4 run-in with a interviewer about the New Era Estate appeal, to a much lesser effect) and dispels any myths that Brand takes himself too seriously. He takes aim at corporations (slogans such as L’Oreal’s “Maybe she’s worth it” are exposed of their ridiculousness). Even newspapers where are under fire both the left wing (The Guardian is described as a pretentious, try-hard “I know I’m not your dad but…” stepfather) and right wing (The Daily Mail’s website’s never-ending sidebar gets a beating and one of their journalists has bag of soup flung at him).
Brand’s charisma is as strong as ever and he excels in showmanship, with the audience being in the palm of his hand. But he doesn’t abuse us, he is warm and really just wants everyone to be nice to one another. So, for example, a Hare Kristina cake is placed on each seat as a nice gesture and Brand stays for on stage for a couple of minutes after the show has ended to take pictures with fans. It would have been interesting to see him talk of the years event a bit more (Trump is only mentioned briefly at the beginning and his status as President elect is not explored) and occasionally becomes slightly too Brand-centric.
Brand thanks us for coming and explains that it is harder for him now with much of the press aiming for his throat (“that’s what happens when you called Rupert Murdoch a c**t”), but hopefully this is just a easing into a full comeback: comedians, or celebrities in general, like Brand are needed and it’s important that his voice remains witty and relevant.