Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne
Never one to pander to the expectations of an audience, Sean Hughes opens a show about the death of his father by ambling on stage dressed as a jockey who has just won the Derby. Within minutes he has co-opted a supporting cast from members of the audience and introduced a comedy show that’s rooted in one of life’s most charged situations – the loss of a parent.
His delivery implies (or betrays?) his hyper-anxiety about losing a man with whom he never felt he had a great relationship, but initial discomfort about participating in another human being’s catharsis is soon dispelled by Hughes’ artful joke telling and ability to shock, shame and share.
He rails against the pathetic rules that prevent experimental cancer drugs being given to dying patients in their 70s and 80s “because they’re too dangerous” and rails against the equally horrific reliance on dispensing chemotherapy to them instead.
Such elements are not the obvious stuff of comedy, but Hughes uses the experience as a portal to a range of related subjects and along the way he tackles plenty of his own failings, possibly offends women who go to snooker matches, lauds the NHS and skewers the way it’s managed.
This is fine, unexpectedly uplifting comedy that plays on the emotions, but doesn’t manipulate them, to emerge with hope in its heart.