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An Audience with Billy Connolly, Criterion Theatre - review

Connolly is in London being directed by Dustin Hoffman in a film, Quartet, about retired opera singers and he was certainly on song here.

Billy Connolly is never afraid to shock. He has punched photographers and made controversial jokes. The shock this time was his hair, which was shorter than it has been in recent memory. The windswept and interesting tresses have been snipped. Connolly's hair has gone straight.

Luckily that was the only thing about him that was straight at last night's gig in support of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. At 68, he is as irrepressibly funny as ever.

In this special one-off, Connolly was notionally being interviewed by Alan Yentob, but the questions were merely cues for ribald rambles.

The youthful stand-up, sitting down for a change, could digress for Scotland. All the TV executive had to do, for instance, was mention childhood and Connolly was finding the humour in being literally booted out of the bedroom by his mother's lover or jumping over air raid shelters.

From there it was a short hop to life in "the erection squad" when he worked on the docks and doing "the dance of the flaming arseholes" when he was in the Parachute Regiment in Cyprus. Some of the Big Yin's yarns might have featured in his confessional biography, written by his wife Pamela Stephenson, but his infectious enthusiasm brought them to life onstage.

A serious side even briefly crept in. He described sexual abuse as "an epidemic" and as for another Scottish hero, he had strong opinions about the presenter of a recent documentary about Susan Boyle: "I'd like to smack him in the mouth."

He also, however, spoke of the power of forgiveness - but presumably draws the line at television presenters.

Read article in EVENING STANDARD

November 7, 2011

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