21 April 2012
Health Hazard is a touring comedy show that compares the state of health-care in the UK and the US. Richard Downes saw Laurence Clark's performance at Dugdale Centre, Enfield,
19th April 2012.
A reductionist view of Laurence Clark, as discussed post show, "Yeah!!! he's alright. Tells jokes. Does powerpoint presentations". An absurd critics view: "doesn't tap dance or sing; would not win X-Factor."
Laurence is a skilled comedian who carries an audience with him. He uses thought provoking tall stories. He is his own straight man; setting himself up for punchlines. His method, like his performance is pure social model. He uses a veritable feast of multimedia to educate and amuse, without ever losing his audience. Does it matter that he doesn't tap dance or sing. Laurence Clark, as far as I know, never set out to be Bruce Forsyth (thank god).
A slide show of health facts is projected as you take your seat. Learn that if you were to unfold your brain you could cover an ironing board; that on average adults fart 14 times a day. The facts stop. The programme titles roll, welcoming Laurence with a first slide explaining what the show is about. Laurence doesn't stop guiding his audience. You know where you are. It's not difficult, but it is funny.
Liz Carr, once let me in to a comedian's secret about how to introduce disability; how to include the audience with the startlingly obvious without frightening them or getting their backs up. Laurence has a brilliant rap that allows him to do this from the off. Immediately the audience are in his grasp. Take up the invitation to revisit the past as a guide to the future. Celebrate the routines, the gags about family life, the tragedy model videos; find out about cerebral palsy; watch out for arrows of destiny, that point the way forward.
Note just how gentle, how welcoming Laurence is as he holds the audience in his waving hands. This masterclass remains a pleasure. Be aware of acute references that we all understand from Alien, to Noel Edmonds to the Queen and Simon Cowell. Yes. Laurence uses the familiar, but it's inclusive. What do you want? When do you want it?
Watch out for the practical joker too; the phone jacker who will not threaten you, but will allow you to make a right fool of yourself, especially if you deny access or work for a private health insurance company. Find out why there is a strained relationship between the USA and the UK. It's not just language that they mis-spell; it's ideas that they fail to understand. Gasp with wonderment at how much it must cost a disabled citizen of the States to survive without an NHS. Find out how Laurence changed that abbreviation to make it palatable to Americans. Note that crafty performer, sitting in his chair, being friendly, taking you along with him. I'm told by women that Laurence is handsome. He is Robert Redford. Watch out for the Sting. Don't fall for those crafty tales.
You will find out many things from Health Hazard: at what level disabled people can accept the moniker 'brave', how to do it without becoming 'tragic'. Tragic and brave. I am left salivating at the thought that Laurence maybe developing this dialectic right now, whilst exploring what he can get away with.
Health Hazard tours until 17 May before Laurence Clark's new show 'Inspired' previews at Wales Millennium Centre, Unity Festival, Cardiff, on 26 June. Watch out for a filmed performance at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London on 7 September. For the first time ever Laurence has been funded to develop a show courtesy of the Cultural Olympiad. He's already got top production values. This one's going to be a cracker. Go to DAOs listings for more details.