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Russ Peers: Hereditary Peers at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018

Russ Peers: Hereditary Peers
Russ Peers: Hereditary Peers

The House of Lords doesn’t even get name-checked in a show called Hereditary Peers – instead, it’s the life story of Russ Peers, starting with his upbringing in Barrow-in-Furness and ending in the present. Specifically, an upstairs meeting room in an Edinburgh conference centre that, like so many other places, is yet another Fringe venue. There is, he says, a certain nostalgia about the place in which the audience sits. With a deadpan manner, Peers asks us to think of all the sales projections and PowerPoint presentations that have been done here.

While this isn’t the first stand-up comedian to lampoon their hometown, Peers might have a point when he does that thing of resorting to expletives to describe his local community. According to an Office for National Statistics report in 2014, Barrow-in-Furness was judged to be the least happy area in the UK. The apparent banality of pub conversations is made clear, as is the sense of morbidity his parents gradually possess with the advancing of their years: a company that had come to install a new white good that came with a 15-year guarantee was told that the policy was useless as they wouldn’t live that long.

Dark humour is the order of the day then, in a show delivered at a steady but nonetheless assured pace. His father’s prudence has unintended consequences – switching the lights off in the front room when not in use includes turning off the Wi-Fi router, interrupting Peers’ “Netflix and chill” session. I loved the interaction with an American lady in the front row at the performance I attended. At one point she was asked if she knew what a pavement is. As it turned out, she was quite familiar with British English and continental ways, having a job in London and a father based in Paris. It wasn’t quite Audience 1, Peers 0, because if anything it saved him a lot of explanations: I call it a draw.

And then there are ‘problems’ (inverted commas mine) encountered by certain Barrow locals, who find, one way or another, that they have everything they need where they are. One man told Peers he was astonished that someone had a commute of 15 minutes each way to work in a neighbouring town. Stories abound about misunderstandings encountered over the years as Peers just so happens to be gay, but as can be the case with young minds, it was difficult to please his younger self. Cast as Willy Wonka in a student production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he wasn’t impressed to discover that the boy playing Charlie Bucket has far fewer lines. In his view, he was being rewarded for having a good memory rather than acting prowess.

That didn’t stop a grand finale reprise of ‘The Candy Man’ tune from the soundtrack of the 1971 motion picture. There’s a lesson in this, although there’s nothing preachy about this performance: think of happier times, think of good times, and as Jane Austen wrote in her novel Mansfield Park: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” A gentle and heartwarming hour of good old-fashioned storytelling.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Living in London and attending swanky dinner parties, a lot has changed for Russ since his days working at a supermarket checkout in Cumbria…his life may seem very different to his parents' but is it? Does his impatience and need to switch off lights come from his Dad? Does his need to please come from his Mum? And why drag up as Madonna? Does he fight this or give in to being Hereditary Peers?

With his laid-back Northern charm and his marvellous anecdotal style, Russ has audiences rolling in the aisles as he takes aim at all aspect of his life and regales with stories from his journey from Northern pathos to Southern sophistication.

Just The Tonic at The Grassmarket Centre (Just The Meeting Room)
Address: 86 Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, EH1 2QA
Date: Thursday 2nd – Sunday 22nd August (Not 13th)

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