We weren’t really sure what to expect from Russell Brand’s The Messiah Complex at The Brighton Center. Sure, it’s a stand up comedy show, but there wasn’t one moment when we thought that that was all it would be.
To begin the show, Brand confidently strode onto the stage to the very apt song ‘Personal Jesus’ (the Depeche Mode version). The Messiah Complex is a show where Russell Brand claims his place amongst his personal heroes; Gandhi, Che Guevara, Malcolm X and Jesus. But before moving onto these comparisons Brand spends a while really working the crowd. He prances through the audience, sometimes interacting with people, climbing and clambering his way through people, whilst those near to him try to grab a piece of him. We couldn’t help but think it must have been a security guard’s worst nightmare. The sold out Brighton Center rippled with anticipation as he moved around the room, some people hoping he would come by and they would get to talk to him, others doing anything they could not to catch his eye. As he hopped back onto the stage the show really began.
The Messiah Complex is a real medical condition where someone believes themselves to be a modern day saviour. Brand, in recognition of this works through his personal heroes and explains why he is in some way, a little bit like them.
The links may have been rather tenuous, but that obviously wasn’t the point. The point was to discuss the idea of heroes, and in the same way we idolise certain historical figures he lookes at the idolisation of celebrities. He certainly does not mock the celebrity lifestyle, recognising that it was becoming famous that removed him from his life of poverty and dropped him into, a rather eloquently put, “tumble-dryer of tits and money”. What he does look cynically at is the presentation of those we idolise, and where we get our ideas from. He criticises the media (the Daily Mail gets a particularly brutal verbal onslaught) and uses his own examples to point out just how twisted a story can become once it has been presented by the news, like how he was portrayed by the Daily Mail to have said Justin Beiber should take heroin.
Brand speaks incredibly quickly, mixing up funny jokes with serious thought provoking rants, so there is hardly time to really think about what he is saying. It’s easy to imagine he does this for a number of reasons, it certainly didn’t give anybody a chance to heckle, they couldn’t have got a word in edge-ways. The pace also gave the show momentum and really demanded the attention of the audience. To temper the seriousness, his flamboyant performance is partly what makes the show so funny. That and the embarrassing photos he shows the audience throughout the night.
He works his way through his heores, each time somehow relating it back to how he is a little bit like them. It’s impressive to see how he flows so easily from such controversial, often very socialist views to flippant stories about drugs and sex. He really proves his knowledge with quotes from politicians and philosophers without letting the show more education than comedy.
The Messiah Complex was a perfectly balanced concoction of philosophical, political and religious views and silly, sometimes self-deprecating stories. Overall, a thoroughly entertaining show. Brand has really found his niche.
Image by © Gary Marlowe: Images Out Of The Ordinary