Review: Frank Skinner

Richard Nevin sees the conquering hero return.

Some do, some don’t. Like Frank Skinner that is, amongst his fellow Brummies, or Black Country folk depending on your point of view and here’s not the place to draw that border for the umpteenth time.

I place myself firmly in the former camp but know plenty of locals who have taken against the Smethwick-born comedian. Be it that peculiar trait of disliking someone from a similar background making good, his choice of football team or, and I have heard this more than once, his satirical description of his upbringing.

I find that part of his humour warm, familiar and respectfully nostalgic. Others just think he’s taking the piss. Which he is of course, in addition to reminiscing, but then that’s his job and he’s been quite successful at it. Successful enough to sell out the country’s greatest concert hall.

This is not my first time at a Frank Skinner gig, from a one hour warm up at the Edinburgh festival to an enormo gig at the NIA and theatres in between but this would be the first for almost a decade. And it’s easy to tell.

Strolling onto the sparse, economically lit stage in plain black suit and white shirt Skinner cut a laid back figure, seemingly at ease with himself and comfortable in his own skin. In those intervening ten years the pace appears to have dropped, understandable of course with the onset of age, a long-term relationship and a seven year old son, yet the quick wit and mischievous air remain.

Never afraid to demonstrate open pleasure at his work, there always seems that extra twinkle in Skinner’s eye when gigging locally, able to turn a colloquial phrase or reference a locale without further explanation, ably abetted by a gaggle of vocal fans from his own district high up in the Gods.

The material follows a familiar but somewhat mellower path, the days of regular and graphic sexual references replaced by observations on the more mundane, but no less funny, vagaries of life, growing up and growing old. Not that the language is cleaner and the subject matter remains near to the knuckle, literally in one skit revolving around personal toilet hygiene.

Football is barely mentioned save for a nod to the upcoming Villa V Wolves match, there are numerous celebrity based anecdotes and stories (the tour is called Showbiz) but for me Frank Skinner, mixing in elevated circles, resident in London and with a number one record to his name never seems to change, which may be the attraction.

Despite a varied career away from the stand up mic, he appears most at home on stage and does what many great comedians do, make one person talking for an hour and a half seem like a conversation with a mate. Albeit one you have to pay for……