Alan Partridge: Stratagem review – two hours of massive nonsense | Comedy

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JThe last time Alan Partridge graced the national stages, he was trying his hand at life coaching, during the 2008 tour of Steve Coogan, Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Figures. The idea has clearly stuck because, 14 years later, it has turned into a show in its own right. Stratagem, Partridge tells us, is “a fun way to share knowledge that I believe will change your life.” And so begins two highly satisfying hours for fans of Coogan’s immortal alter ego, as Alan combines motivational PowerPoint with time travel, song and dance, and a relaxation exercise turned into a match. slang with an upstart protege.

The whole show, created with Coogan’s Partridge co-writers Neil and Rob Gibbons, is tight, well-crafted and has its own satisfying little story arc, as the fragility of Alan’s pretensions as a life coach is revealed. . Coogan is far from the first comic to find pathos in the overreach of motivational speakers, but Stratagem doesn’t shoot that easy target much. Really, it’s just two hours of massive silliness, reveling in Partridge’s foot-and-mouth disease, making hay in the chasm between his fussy, petty reality and the sophisticated vision he aspires to be.

All of this is achieved with the help of a troupe of young backing dancers whose friendship Partridge is eager to claim, and cameos from comedic actor and Starstruck Emma Sidi as a successful Stratagem graduate and a member of the talkative audience that Alan inadvertently invites onto the stage. . None of this, of course, suggests a man whose life advice you would go anywhere near. But no matter: in the first act, Partridge focuses instead on the inside, co-opting the magic of the theater (as he keeps telling us) to address first his 11-year-old, then his 103 years old. The latter is set in a dystopian cyber-Norwich of 2065, half-man, half-avatar with an aging partridge face and the lower half of a can-can dancer in fishnets.

Here to change your life… Coogan as Alan Partridge. Photography: Johan Perrson

Will we still laugh at Partridge when he turns 100? You wouldn’t bet against it: the character Coogan once considered “an albatross around his neck” is now at the center of his own thriving cross-platform metaverse. And Coogan is clearly enjoying the performance. I’m not just talking about endless adenoid pettifoging, which culminates here in an ’80s power-ballad routine that Partridge keeps interrupting to discuss the intricacies of Lib Dem politics. It’s also the rich comedy of physical awkwardness, as Alan enters and exits uncertain from someone else’s tracking point, or disguises himself in soft furnishings. Its fashionable behind-the-scenes graphics, which ape famous iPod silhouette commercials, are also subverted by a treasured visual gag that will live horribly long in memory.

Where does all of this leave the Stratagem program and changing our lives for the better? Hardly anywhere. In the second act, Partridge goes back to basics, extrapolating a few silly anagrams and pointing out the nonsensical tenets of the program. One of them – the atonement – is illustrated in dialogue with a new Coogan alter ego, Irish rebel singer Martin Brennan, whom Partridge despised on BBC One’s This Time and is now seeking to make peace with a whistle to a penny.

The show is therefore an extension rather than an expansion of what Partridge does. Another splash into the shallows of self-delusion, sexual repression and quarantine malaise. But no one makes this territory more fun than Partridge, as Coogan proves again in this cheerful show.

Stratagem With Alan Partridge Live is touring the UK.

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