Review of Hal Cruttenden – The Tough Luvvie Tour at Harlow Playhouse

By Siobhan Wood

HAL Cruttenden described himself as looking like Mr Tumble from CBBC and came across as relaxed and charming but topics including pensions, suicide, Facebook and leaving the EU were discussed with sharp and sometimes dark humour.

The audience loved it, with plenty of laughter and long rounds of applause. There were some empty seats but Hal embraced the smaller crowd and at times it felt like an intimate Q&A session with the audience.

At one point the answers from the crowd led Hal to ask if grave digger was the only occupation in Harlow. One audience member Hal picked on for not laughing told him her newly-ex partner was sat next to her and Hal commented that the man involved was “still sitting there. Eating his little dessert.” Hal’s quick wit and off the cuff humour was very impressive and proved he is much more than a comedian who has to stick to the script.

It looked like Hal had really enjoyed himself and he confirmed this when I spoke to him after the show.

What is it like performing at the Harlow Playhouse?

I really liked it. I’ve always found that people have a sort of expectation of Essex as being quite rough and tough, but actually I find Essex has the nicest audiences, they’re really quite open. I can’t believe tonight we had a woman admitting that her and her partner had just split up and they still came, it was brilliant! As it was a smaller crowd you have to kind of gee them up a bit more but I still enjoyed it, it’s still lovely. That is a brilliant set up to perform. What you need in comedy is the audience near. It’s one of the nicest venues for comedy that I’ve seen. That’s why big arenas are tough for these big comics. They do go well because they’re loved and they’ve got their stuff there but you want the audience quite nice and close. That’s what’s great about this, even when they’re up at the top they’re never that far away. So fabulous I thought, very good. What was so memorable about this gig is I was so impressed that a couple who just split up, one of whom is obviously devastated, still came to see me to be cheered up and I failed. She was still miserable at the end of the show! So devastated was she that even I failed to cheer her up. Having said that, I did pick on her. I liked her, it was fab.

How do you feel playing to a smaller audience?

You don’t want to lose them. A big crowd is often where you’ll try out more new material because you’ve got a roll going. On a smaller crowd there’s less of a roll of laughter but also I find it quite relaxing just in terms of I’ve got to get into them because I’ve got to be quite personal with this show. You’ve got to make them feel like everybody’s involved. The audiences can feel quite tense going “oh, there’s not many of us” and then when it still works well it’s brilliant. It’s a weird tour like that, I do things where most of the time I’m between two and three hundred and then things where you get 120 but that’s just the way it goes and comedy is a bit like that. Some of the even bigger places I know have been low on numbers just because there’s a lot of comedy around.

Do you enjoy interacting with the audience and making it a big part of your performance?

I do, it happens more and more the longer a tour goes on, mainly because you get bored with your older stuff. You want to find people who you can link it to or talk to about it all. I’ve been doing comedy quite a long time so when I first started doing it I was very sort of set on a script and “oh no, someone’s shouted out, someone’s told me something!” but now I enjoy it when unusual things happen.

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