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Brydon, Mack and Mitchell: Town to Town, Sheffield City Hall, review: the ideal comic balm for our Brexit-befuddled nation

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Rob Brydon, Lee Mack and David Mitchell
Rob Brydon, Lee Mack and David Mitchell

Will historians look back on the autumn of 2019, consider the levels of acrimony surrounding Brexit, and wonder at the decisive role played by Brydon, Mack and Mitchell in helping to stave off the threat of civil war? 

The French have Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité to inspire national morale. The UK has Rob, Lee and David (combined age 150, combined IQ considerable, combined wealth enviable), who, aside from their individual estimable careers as funnymen, bring mirth to millions as the host and team captains of long-running BBC game show Would I Lie to You? And they’re now rolling out their rapport and gift for repartee across the land, going “Town to Town”.

True, other comics are weighing in at the moment to give the tired, the poor, and the Brexit-befuddled masses a vital fillip – Ben Elton, Eddie Izzard and Russell Howard are all on the road, and Andy Parsons has even laughably titled his show Healing the Nation. But on the back of Town to Town’s first night, I’d suggest that the necessary balm is already at hand.

The trio act in spontaneous concert to lighten the mood, foreswearing all mention of the B-word (Brydon checks himself when he starts to say “referendum”) and focusing on the things that matter most in life, such as the imminence of the new Gavin and Stacey special and what to do if your partner snores too loudly.

The format of the evening is a distant cobbled-together cousin of their televisual badinage-fest. Brydon first acts as the smartly suited warm-up man – all grinning, insincere flattery (“Sheffield, I didn’t know you’d be this beautiful!”) and gratuitous impersonations (his interruptive explainers – “I’m doing Hugh Grant”… “I’m doing Mick Jagger” – are a running-gag in their own right).

Then the Welshman settles into a leather armchair (“I’m doing Ronnie Corbett”) amid a mock-up gentlemen’s club – customised portraits, soft lighting, velvet curtains – to pit Mack and Mitchell against each other in a sedentary combat of nimble wits. The audience has been consulted, via email in advance, to establish pseudo-statistical answers to a scattershot quiz about the locality and more – the city’s most annoying feature, most prominent VIP, which of the three would be thought likeliest to commit murder, and so forth.

The amusement, naturally enough, lies less in the correct guess (the spurious points chalked up on blackboards) and more in the musing aloud, interactions with the crowd, and one-up-manship on stage. “’ousing?” Mack exclaims, getting dialectical when a local council worker pipes up. “You’d think after all those years working in housing you’d know there was an h at the beginning of it.”

As the Oxford-raised Mitchell – less energised, his brain a stealthier beast, suddenly pouncing with claws – dryly notes, his Lancastrian rival can trade in jibes at the expense of Northern stereotypes that he’d be drummed out of town for. 

Overall, the two hours (mainly family-friendly though with involuntary outbreaks of smut) provides welcome proof that the offhand-sounding quips that make the best TV comedy shows zing really can be concocted off the cuff. In the second half, when the comedy triumvirate return to play agony uncles to audience “dilemmas” (jotted down on paper, collected during the interval) there’s no flagging. 

Witness this typical gag-reflex when Mitchell opines as to whether a woman should cut her partner’s disgusting toe-nails while he’s asleep. Deriding the awfulness of this heavily used and abused bodily extremity, he decides: “I wish I didn’t have feet...”

Brydon: “You’re saying this in public…”

Mitchell: “I think our feet are just heralds of our own mortality staring up at us while we do a wee.”

Mack, quick as a flash: “This is why you didn’t get the Clarks Shoes advert.” 

There’s plenty more where that came from. Mark Twain defined wit as “the sudden marriage of ideas which, before their union, were not perceived to have any relation”. At this time of wrangling dissension, Brydon, Mack and Mitchell are flying the flag for British humour’s enduring, unifying power. Sterling stuff.

Touring until Oct 3. Details: brydonmackandmitchell.com