The League of Gentlemen Live Again! – Live Review – Sheffield City Hall
By Richard Jones, September 2018
The dark and twisted humour of The League of Gentlemen has long been one of my favourite brands of comedy. In December 2017 I, along with millions of other fans, received an early Christmas present when Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith returned to resurrect the town of Royston Vasey.
They brought the weird and wonderful inhabitants out of semi-retirement to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their first BBC show, a six-part radio programme entitled ‘On the Town with the League of Gentlemen’. Its success led to the first television outing two years later.
After three TV series, a Christmas special, a feature film, stage show and live tours, the League decided to work on new projects.
Gatiss is perhaps best known for Doctor Who and Sherlock, while Pemberton and Shearsmith have appeared in several shows independently as well as together on Psychoville and Inside No 9.
“Perfect mix of old and new”
But in summer 2018, following on from the success of the Christmas specials, the trio hit the road for their two-month ‘Live Again!’ UK tour. I was in the audience for the last of the three Sheffield City Hall shows, and I was thrilled to see virtually all their Royston Vasey characters on stage.
Edwards and Tubbs Tattsyrup, Pauline and Mickey, Herr Lipp, Doctor Chinnery, Uncle Harvey and Auntie Val, and Papa Lazarou all featured in the show’s second half.
It was a perfect mix of old and new, with catchphrases galore and plenty of new jokes and punchlines to keep the act fresh.
The massive array of costumes after the interval contrasted with the first half, which saw Gattis, Pemberton and Shearsmith hurtle through sketches in their dinner jackets. They revisited Go Johnny Go Go Go Go, Charlie and Stella and the lecherous Pop.
“Lurid and grotesque”
It’s a testament to the trio’s talent and energy that they can bring these grotesquely drawn characters fully to life with little more than a hat, scarf or moustache here or there.
The laughs didn’t stop from the moment Legz Akimbo took to the stage to deliver ‘issue-based theatre’ on Stranger Danger (or ‘perve swerve’), right the way through to the finale, which serves as a follow-on from the 20th-anniversary specials.
Punctuating the costume changes is the village’s beloved Reverend Bernice Woodhall, who gives her brutally honest opinion on some of 2018’s social issues, allegedly prompted by questions from the audience.
As this show is not connected to the BBC in any way, the trio used the freedom to get even more lurid and grotesque, and the language is even more ‘colourful’ than some of their outfits.
“Howling with laughter”
The League of Gentlemen’s previous tour was dubbed as ‘a local show for local people’, however this ‘Live Again!’ tour two decades on from their radio debut proves that Gattis, Pemberton and Shearsmith are now bona fide national treasures.
I happened to be in the audience next to none other than Jeremy Dyson, the fourth and often unseen member of the League.
Like me and my friends Stu, Joe and Steve, he was howling with laughter all the way through, even though he has seen the routines countless times and even wrote most of them.
To steal a line from the sinister Hilary Briss, the final character introduced in this show, ‘The League of Gentlemen Live Again!’ was ‘special stuff’.