Eddie Izzard
By Bryce Hallett | July 28 2003 | Sydney Morning Herald


Sexie, Eddie Izzard, Enmore Theatre, July 24

Like a roller-coaster, the comedy of Eddie Izzard hurtles through space, soars to exhilarating peaks, falls into troughs and takes a few clunky turns before coming to an abrupt halt.

It's a helter-skelter ride - secure at its core yet risky at the edges.

There are moments when you suspect Izzard's brain has short-circuited to produce many a spontaneous thrill and the sense that a patchy scheme, not a well-developed script, is all that binds the piece. He even tempts fate by inserting an interval, but fortunately he gets back up to speed in no time to reveal how fine an improviser and entertainer he is.

Izzard is a master of the verbal free fall, where logic is suspended, meandering side trips are taken and distorted images of people and events are conjured with cross-dresser abandon. There's lots of names, from Charlene to Saddam, and many a weird and wonderful stop in between.

The British comic is in Australia presenting the world premiere season of Sexie, a stand-up performance crammed with keen observations, sly asides, deprecation and an air of silliness that recalls British comics of old as well as camper ones of new. A bit more topicality wouldn't go astray and the stale Neighbours stuff could be quietly jettisoned.

By the time Izzard arrived majestically on stage, it wasn't hard to imagine that the Rolling Stones forgot to pack up their lighting rig from the Enmore Theatre, given the rock 'n' roll dazzle used to dress up an otherwise spare show. It wasn't Jagger's voice blaring from the speakers but that of Tom Jones, whose macho melodic wonders serve as a strangely appropriate fanfare for the funnyman. Thankfully, no one hurled panties or bras on stage.

I'm not sure why the show is called Sexie except that Izzard may be feeling that way. At any rate, he's comfortable with who he is and, like the best comedians, is only too willing to put himself on the line. "I am what I am," he seems to say as he tells the audience that not even loads of make-up, a dress and fake breasts can disguise the fact that he's a man.

Sexie is funny and bold in parts but a number of jokes fell short of the mark, including a rough attempt to make a song out of, and for, Sydney. Still, it didn't especially matter given what a superb ad-libber he proves to be, especially when playing off the audience.

The thing about Izzard, who has won two Emmy Awards and recently scored a Tony Award nomination for his performance in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, is that the pearls of wit surely come even if they're not strung neatly together.

Besides, his spirit of mental adventure and charm makes for an exciting act and you need your wits about you in order to keep up.

In its best moments, Sexie is clever, semi-surreal and fetchingly offbeat. Subjects touched on include body image, the mind-altering effects of TV soaps and the concept of stoning people to death.

The second half takes a more autobiographical turn with amusing recollections of his stoic "Gran", the perils of acupuncture, performing to bewildered audiences in France and the Irish accent he had when he was a boy.

Given how thick and fast the stories and loose threads come, and in such apparently chaotic bursts, it's hard to believe any one performance of Sexie will be anything like the next.

That in itself is the mark of a disciplined performer and a richly idiosyncratic talent with a gift for making audiences laugh and smile at the oddest and most familiar of things. It's possible to leave the Izzard "ride" feeling dizzy while thinking, "I wouldn't mind trying that again".

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