Appropriately for someone who has starred in Radio 4’s Dickensian spoof, Bleak Expectations, Tom Allen reveals that taking on a Victorian persona is nothing new – he first started dressing in fripperies at school as a way to manage his own internal demons. Such elegance of dress continues today embodied in both clothes and words. Allen is a comedian with a slightly old-fashioned persona; an arch, camp raconteur with exquisite comic timing and an enormous amount of class.
The show focuses on his childhood discomfort, knitting together emojis, herb gardens, moving back in with one’s parents and the necessity of drinking on a first date. It’s delivered with a disarming geniality that belies the rapier wit beneath the surface. Allen doesn’t need to show off in order to make tears stream down the face – it’s all there in pacing, well-timed pauses and wordplay.
This restrained command remains even when things go wrong. When a beer swilling, crisp guzzling party become increasingly uppity – whispering loudly to one another, before finally yelling ‘Fuck off’- Allen plays up the tension, hoping for a fight and then asking if anyone would rather watch a TV that happens to be on stage, whilst the crowd descends into a pit of angry wasps. His gratitude to the audience, when the ingrates have finally self-ejected rather than face the music, is genuine and touching – and he riffs on the incident for the rest of the set. Thus, the rude interruption does nothing to damage the gig – it only brings out Allen’s best qualities.