Alfie Brown: Imagination (4 stars)

This article is from 2019

Alfie Brown: Imagination

Identity explored in this show about love, friendship and football

The trouble with interacting with strangers is that you never know how they'll respond. This is especially true in stand-up. Whilst it can be entertaining to watch a comedian veer off-piste with an audience member, there's always the threat of a would-be show-stealer who fancies themselves as the evening's entertainment. The second Alfie Brown appears on stage he is taking that risk. The dynamic between man and crowd is a primary ingredient of his latest show Imagination, and tonight it works wonderfully, with the end result a conceptually novel and provocative hour of comedy from an acerbic, witty performer.

When he's performing his prepared material, Imagination's main narrative strand consists of Brown exploring identity, both the ways in which individuals take steps to assert it and the ways in which parents must do it on behalf of a child. The show changes tack at the halfway point and, with an extended detour factoring in Brown's beloved Liverpool FC and his partner Jessie Cave's role at a comic con, considers how and why group dynamics alter the way we act. Imagination is an extremely funny show that's occasionally searing, with a takedown of our acceptance of modern slavery recalling the social criticism of Bill Hicks. A routine about the honesty of dick pics is intelligent and thought out, and Brown's anecdotes from his dating years are bizarrely relevant.

He's in control of the audience tonight too. In a show about how the individual relates to a crowd, it makes perfect sense to involve them and to put that dynamic at the front and centre of Imagination. He'll get different results every night and that's exciting, for Alfie Brown and for us.

Monkey Barrel, until 25 Aug, 10.30pm, £7–£10 in advance or donations at the venue.

Alfie Brown: Imagination

A brand new show from comedian Alfie Brown about family, friendship and belief.