It’s rare that a comedian manages to prompt a laugh, get the crowd onside and give a good indication of how the next hour is going to pan out simply by saying hello, but Hal Cruttenden manages it tonight. His charm and affability raise smiles before he’s even got into his stride.
‘Straight Outta Cruttenden’ doesn’t indicate a journey to and astral plane for and out-of-body an existential musing, but is a reference to the gangsta rap he listened to unconvincingly as a teenage posho. Honesty is at the crux of Cruttenden’s comedy, and he talks freely about middle-age, middle-class – life as he knows it. There’s no greater theme to the evening that that, and the show is no worse for it.
Displaying the confidence and likeability that have taken him from Best Newcomer at the 2002 Fringe through to mainstream television success, he is nevertheless acerbic and sharp, capable of stealthing in some dark and spiky stuff underneath all that cuddly twinkle.
The subject matter isn’t groundbreaking – facebook whines, family anecdotes – but it’s relatable stuff, and the perspectives are fresh and unsentimental. Crowd interplay provides some of the big laughs tonight, no problem for such a seasoned campaigner, and we’re treated the odd zinging Monkhouse-esque one-liner as well.
There is padding to be found in Cruttenden’s tendency to camp it up – simply reciting rap lyrics in a middle class accent is not good enough for me – although I accept that it may be good enough to hit the sweet spot of mainstream appeal that is his well-earned stomping ground. And there are no sags in the laughs to be found in the packed-out room for tonight’s preview show.
If there’s a gap in your fringe schedule an hour of uncomplicated, confident and polished stand up you won’t go far wrong with Hal.