WARNING: This review contains spoilers - if you're going to see The Boosh, you may not want to read it.
It's been a drought for concert-goings this year. Pixie and I have not been to one show or festival in the past ten months, so we were looking forward to checking out The Mighty Boosh at the New Theatre in Oxford. The tour was announced nearly a year ago and we snapped up 4 tickets the day they went on sale.
The third series of the Boosh's comedy show was broadcast last autumn and the tour was announced a bit later. The third series didn't seem as creative as the second one to me, but over time, watching the episodes on DVD quite a bit, I've warmed to them more. Pixie had the late shift at work--so as soon as we could, we high-tailed it to town. After another excellent meal at the Noodle Bar, we walked over to the New Theatre and joined the queue outside. I spotted Axl walking by the queue and we spoke for a bit - before he noticed that the doors had opened. I had to check out the merch stand (natch) and ended up buying a black tour T-shirt...Pixie opted for the Bob Fossil (played by Rich Fulcher) shirt..which shows Fossil doing his dance to 10CC's Dreadlock Holiday. There's even a small cricket bat on the back with an "X" over it and his quote "...and that's why I don't like cricket".
We made our way to our seats, after stopping off at the bar for a beer. The house speakers pumped out a steady selection of 'classic rock'..Led Zeppelin's Heartbreaker, Neil Young's Cinnamon Girl and the New York Dolls' Personality Crisis played while the crowd filled the auditorium. Finally, the house lights dimmed and Fleetwood Mac's Tusk (a sly reference to the Party episode from the third series) started up. The Boosh were announced, the crowd roared and Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) and Howard Moon (Julian Barratt) hit the stage, singing Future Sailors, their ditty from The Power Of The Crimp episode. Noir arrived on a shining miniature galleon, while Moon had a small lifeboat around his waist. They ran up a semi-circular catwalk set up at the back of the stage to sing part of the song--then ran down and finished. Moon and Noir then did some Boosh-type banter for awhile--filled with non-sequitirs and off-hand insults. The funniest bit for me was Howard's inner monologue, broadcast over the speakers, while he was spotlighted. They started a running joke about him asking the prop girl out, but actually he was stalking her. The rest of the first half of the show involved some of the characters from the TV series making guest appearances.
Bob Fossil walked out and announced he was starting up a dance academy, then taught the audience his moves from the "Power Of The Crimp" episode, to Hall & Oates' I Can't Go For That (No Can Do), as in the show. Next up were Naboo (Mike Fielding) and Bollo--and their story was that they had been hanging out in California with gangsta rappers. Naboo walked down the catwalk shouting "What's mah name?!" and Bollo, with Flavor Flav-sized clock around his neck, would respond "Nabooo!" Then Naboo shouted "I love pussyyyy...I love pussyyy!" and Noir and Moon stopped the show. Howard tried to give Naboo a dressing-down, but Naboo would hit Moon on the head with his jeweled cane. Noir reminded Naboo that there were women in the audience and Moon would be hit again. A 'motorised' settee was wheeled out on stage so Naboo could "turn his back" on the audience and the countrified music that accompanies his turning had a hip-hop beat and record scratches added in. The Moon (not Howard) made an appearance after Naboo and Bollo headed off-stage on the settee, singing a song for astronaut Michael Collins--in which Collins was berated for travelling all the way to the moon and not getting out of the lunar module.
The next segment was given to Tony Harrison and, to me, seemed a bit of a wasted opportunity. The character is usually pretty hilarious on the TV show--but live, it seemed like Fielding was having a problem improvising something interesting or funny to say. Harrison started riffing on his wife leaving him, then 'costume malfunctions' caused Noel to talk about having to squeeze inside of a chair to play Harrison...this actually got bigger laughs than the improvised character bits. Fulcher then joined Fielding onstage as a Ukranian stand-up comic who spoke in his native language except when he would say "Ox-ford". It was funny at first, but then, as with most acts like that, it gets a bit stale after a little while. Barratt was brought out on-stage as The Crack Fox and his segment went a little better--but again, problems with the costume drew more laughs than the monologue. I have to admit the costume was clever, with Barratt inside of a large skip. Rubbish bags disguised his body while the Crack Fox's legs dangled over the rim of the skip. The arms were controlled by sticks which extended into the rubbish bags--those are what gave him the most trouble. Last up for the first half was classic Boosh character The Hitcher and Fielding gave it a good go. His performance was a bit less manic than the one on the live DVD, but still very funny. He had a crow attached to a stick that he called 'Philip', which he would hit the stage with and a squwak would emerge. Afterward, the rest of the cast were dressed as Hitcher henchmen and they did a full band version of the Eels song. The screens in back had psychedelic eel films playing and a giant green eel was pushed out on-stage for the Hitcher to bounce around on. The curtain closed after they finished and it was time for the interval.
The second half started with more banter between Moon and Noir. Moon promised that 'the hilarity is over' and that things 'would get dark'. The was another "inner monologue" part, about Moon selling Batman capes for £2 in a market in Leeds, which really made me laugh--my face started to hurt from laughing at this point. Moon announced that he had written a play about the environment and that he had forced the rest of the cast to take part. The curtain opened and sombre music was playing. Howard was "The Prophet" who warned everyone about the destruction of the planet. No-one listened and so the fires and floods came (Vince and Fossil holding coloured cloth and waving them around on-stage). The Prophet hides in the clock tower of Big Ben and escapes the chaos. He descends from the tower to find wreckage and garbage. He searches for any other survivors and finds a small group of mutants who have learned to speak English by watching James Mason DVDs and Herbie Goes Bananas. Moon tries to teach the mutants about recycling and making buildings from feces--but then suddenly Noir had had enough and threatened to show the audience a magazine he had found in Howard's trumpet case. He then showed the cover of "Jazz On My Face" magazine and Moon was the cover star. Noir 'glammed up' the play by arriving on-stage in a mirror-ball spaceship and stepping out wearing a gladiator breastplate and angel wings, calling himself Sunflash. He looked like an extra on the set of Barbarella. Fulcher joined him as his robot friend Boobalay. Fulcher looked like the Tin Man from The Wizard Of Oz, except with a big...erm...member. Moon was dressed as one of the mutants and he had to rub oil on the robot's chest, which caused the member to grow quite large. Noir and Fulcher sang a song about being from Planet Camden. Sunflash talked in a fey voice and with a strange accent, which he called "Chav-ese" (Chinese and chav mixed). He and Boobalay gave the mutants a make-over..and everyone presumably lived happily ever after--except Howard Moon, who was further humiliated when he tried to leave the play and the audience was shown part of the "Jazz On My Face" photo-shoot, with the title Tromboner (I'll let you work that one out yourself). The play was done (intentionally) in a very bad am-dram fashion, lots of ad-libbing and prat falls and stops. It may turn up in a future Boosh series, if they make any more.
The encore consisted of Fulcher's character Eleanor (from the third series) playing a game of bingo where she (he) would take coloured balls from her top and throw them into the audience. After about four or five, she said "6...6...6, all the sixes" (in reference to the Nanageddon episode). The curtain opened and the full Boosh band were there--including Mike Fielding, acting as a Boosh Bez, just dancing around. They were all dressed in their drag Nana outfits from the "Nanageddon" episode. They then played a medley of some of their songs, tearing into the Nanageddon tune first, then I Did A Shit On Your Mum (from the Journey To The Centre Of The Punk episode), Bouncy, Bouncy (from "Party"), followed by I'm Naboo, That's Who and Soup Song. It would've been groovy to hear The Bongo Brothers' We Are Searching For The New Sound (the rocked-out Santana-ish version from the end of the Priest And The Beast ep.), but aside from that small quibble--they delivered a great set.
All told, Pixie and I had a really good time. The show's shambolic nature made the live DVD look like an R.S.C. Hamlet production, but perhaps the Boosh wanted to loosen up a bit on this tour. It was nice to see the boys on-stage in a small theatre, after watching the DVDs for so long. If you're looking for an entertaining night out, I would recommend The Mighty Boosh's show. The tour is going for another month or so--catch it while you can.