25 Years of Reeves & Mortimer, First Direct Arena, Leeds, review: 'still on top of their game'

4
Hugely enjoyable: Vic Reeves, left, and 
Bob Mortimer romped through their hits
Hugely enjoyable: Vic Reeves, left, and Bob Mortimer romped through their hits

Last autumn, Bob Mortimer visited his doctor with what he thought was a chest infection. As a result of the appointment, the 56-year-old comedian drew up his will and, four days later, he married his long-term partner, Lisa Matthews. Half an hour after the ceremony, he went into hospital for urgent heart surgery. That “chest infection” had been a symptom of severe artery blockage, leaving Mortimer in danger of a heart attack. He needed a triple bypass operation.

The procedure meant that the first leg of his tour with comedy partner Vic Reeves, their first since 1995 and originally scheduled to begin last November, had to be cancelled to allow him time to recuperate.

Bob Mortimer

However, Saturday night saw him prancing around the stage at the Leeds First Direct Arena, perpetrating all manner of surreal stupidity on the opening night of 25 Years of Reeves & Mortimer: The Poignant Moments. “I’m just checking my heart rate, Vic,” he said after the energetic opening number, appearing to consult a monitor on his wrist. It was unclear if he was joking.

Happily, Mortimer appears to be in good shape, but I did fear for the health of members of the audience in my vicinity, who were laughing so hard throughout that a cardiac event seemed a distinct possibility.

This hugely enjoyable show is a two-hour romp through Vic and Bob’s greatest hits, reviving fans’ favourite characters, sketches and tropes from the duo’s long TV career. Here were Donald and Davey Stott, the squeaky-voiced, pointy-shoed brothers who love to interview people. There was the enigmatic Man with the Stick, whose large paper helmet bears details of his recent activities. Folk music legends Mulligan and O’Hare; Judge Nutmeg and the Wheel of Justice; Novelty Island; catchphrases “Oh Vic, I’ve fallen” and “You wouldn’t let it lie”; ludicrous songs – all present and correct and all rapturously received by the 13,000‑strong audience.

Correction – 99 per cent of the audience roared in approval. The remainder – dragged along by friends or partners – simply looked baffled. To anyone unacquainted with Reeves and Mortimer’s work, this will all sound utterly bizarre. It is. It is also extremely, if inexplicably, funny.

Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves

Part physical clowning, part cultural satire, but mostly just inspired absurdist silliness, the material still feels fresh, principally because, as Reeves pointed out in a recent interview, it never had much topical relevance in the first place.  Despite the show’s title, the pair’s partnership began 30 years ago. In their heyday on television, they hosted Vic Reeves Big Night Out, The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and the anarchic game show Shooting Stars. Their TV appearances have been less heralded of late. Hence, perhaps, this tour. 

When it was announced, Mortimer said “Playing in front of a living audience is where it all began for us”, but the gigs will also remind TV commissioners of their enduring popularity. On the evidence of the Leeds show, they are still at the top of their game.

 

 

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