Charles Barrington would like you to believe he’s an international sensation – a well-travelled thespian and raconteur who’s hobnobbed with the rich and powerful and performed in front of many and varied audiences, from legions of fans to armies of critics and, on one particularly unusual occasion, a crowd of ten billion insects.
The truth however is that this hilarious man is not half as famous as he ought to be.
An Audience with Charles Barrington is the perfect first base for those yet to charmed by Barrington’s distinct brand of faux Euro sass, which comes on like a smooth malted scotch and lingers on the palette for some time.
Clad in tinted shades and a suit (closer to op shop than Armani) Barrington wins the audience over with tall tales of his worldly life – particularly the artistic accomplishments and entrepreneurial endeavors a man of his supposed stature invariably experiences. His standard set includes a small table, a bottle of whiskey and a metronome. A fireplace and a chesterfield armchair would do him very nicely.
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Barrington shares many a lesson learnt, such as the difficulties in making tomato jam (the critics got it wrong: it’s not a sauce or a chutney), the secret to becoming a successful bee keeper (rule one: you find a bee, then you keep it) and the perils of stage acting when your audience are insects and your cast mates periodically explore. The latter is a great bit, and like a lot of his material it’s rich with daffy imagery.
Barrington is both snobby and self-deprecating. “There are only five words in the English language to describe shit,” Barrington reads from one of his (fake) reviews. “And they are ‘an evening with Charles Barrington.’”
The loquacious velvet-voiced lothario leans heavily on absurdist humour, but with a twist. The show observes the absurd, the absurdly obvious and the obvious that becomes absurd when viewed through the Barringon prism. For example, he explains that in the dictionary “cleanliness” isn’t next to “godliness” – it is next to “clean.” How such an ordinary observation can be twisted into a shrewd, hilarious, ridiculous skit is a testament to the man’s strong content and excellent delivery.
On MC gigs at previous events Barrington has shown he has the chops for ad-lib comedy but doesn’t do much of it in this show. More would remind audiences that he’s naturally as well as theatrically funny, and that balance can be valuable.
In the hands of a less gifted comedian, much of the set would fall like a lead weight onto the head of Wile E. Coyote, but Barrington makes his material work and his stamp is distinctive. Unmistakable, even.
An Audience with Charles Barrington is stuffed with smart, silly, irresistible comedy, ironically delivered with what we might call “performance arrogance.” The content is worked through the guise of a self-righteous and self-loving character whose personality resembles something along the lines of chic debonair pomposity. The man’s suave grasp of caricature is a winner. One can’t help but leave the show wanting to spend many evenings imbibing the wacky waft of his fibs.
At this point it may be worth reminding audiences that there are many words in the dictionary capable of describing quality comedy. Five of them come to mind.