Devil May Care by Marcus Brigstocke at the Pleasance is not a normal stand-up routine by any stretch of the imagination. Rather than appearing as himself, the veteran of the panel show circuit takes on the role of Lucifer to grouse about a range of subjects including religion, sex, class anxiety, and morality under the overall point that “hell is full” and that he wants to stop the rest of us going there.
The moment that Brigstocke steps out onto the stage in a black suit, with horns stuck to his head, and an amount of red face paint that must surely become uncomfortable under stage lighting, it becomes clear that Devil May Care is the comedian using an elongated sketch to air some of his personal grievances.
The show represents a very bold choice for such a popular comedian, some of whose fans may be disappointed by the Devil schtick in the absence of his normal vaguely posh sensibility but it largely pays off. Brigstocke’s verbal fluidity and frustrated eloquence gel really well with the character and his languid passive-aggressive attitude work effectively with this depiction of Satan as a frustrated bureaucrat.
As well as all the pieces hang together, the reason Devil May Care works as a performance is that as much of a relaxed chat between Brigstocke’s character and the audience as it appears to be, it is the product of a highly-skilled writer with an impressive grasp of structure, argument, tone, and pacing. At times, particularly when he is deep in character, Brigstocke resembles closely the era-defining monologue performed by Rowan Atkinson as part of We Are Most Amused.
Devil May Care is both rabble-rousing and deeply provocative. While it is clear that the material and many of the opinions are those of Brigstocke himself, he is not above being contrarian for a giggle, the tissue-thin mask he allows himself to wear throughout the show grants him the freedom to be fully cutting, insightful, and riskier than in his other shows; and he takes that freedom and runs with it.
While fans of straight comedy may be unnerved by the format, they would be best advised to overlook their concern and enjoy this funny, insightful, thought-provoking and ultimately optimistic show brought to us by a talented comic from the fiery pit.