In an autumn that sees a collection of stand-up comedians take to the West End’s stages, Irish headliner Ed Byrne is the first to unleash his witticisms on London’s theatregoers.
And quite daunted he is by the idea too. His last West End run, he tells the audience early on, opened on 10 September 2001 and subsequently wasn’t a particularly jolly affair.
His current show Different Class takes Byrne’s struggles with the class divide and his attempts to define himself – mum was a middle class radiographer, dad was a working class metal worker – as a starting point, but his mind soon wanders off-topic, taking him on tangents into the realms of film, wedding planning and his obsessive tendencies.
Moving from throwing comic light on the central problems of Thriller and Back To The Future to a long-held grudge against the Women’s Society during his university years, the observational comedy from the panel show regular drifts from political to aggravated whimsy, with Byrne saving his bubbling cauldron of vitriol for the country’s obsession with WAGs and their ambitions of marrying a “spud-faced prossie-botherer”. It is probably the only moment of real anger in a set which revolves more around annoyances and irritations than unadulterated hatred.
Alone on a bare stage, with just a pint for company, the wiry Byrne bounces off the audience, bringing them in and out of proceedings without any feeling of danger and persecution. This isn’t a comedian who wants to rip you to shreds, but one who would rather share his jokes and anecdotes with you; unless you drunkenly abuse him in a bar, then, it would seem, from one of his tales, you are on your own.