Bill Bailey: Limboland

Comedy, Stand-up
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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‘It’s going quite well,’ says Bill Bailey, 30 minutes into his new show. ‘I think I’ll do my joke.’

Yep, Bailey is on typically bewildered form in ‘Limboland’, which has landed in the West End for a Christmas run after a year of touring. The closest the 51-year-old comic gets to a one-liner is a lengthy, meandering gag that starts ‘Lionel Richie walks into a bar…’ But quickfire jokes aren’t Bailey’s style, of course, and his trademark fanciful musings and musical deconstructions are out in force.

‘We’re in a strange time of extremes,’ he explains at the top of the show, before launching into a wonderfully playful routine about the post-election political landscape and the Labour Party’s current ‘experimental album’. As the show title suggests, Bailey feels caught in the middle; the long-time lefty’s not quite sure what to think or who to believe in.

From there, the grumblingly upbeat comic moves into jokes about typical British feelings or trying to explain Skype to his octogenarian father; and in the second half, there are more long-form stories as he explores what it actually means to be ‘happy’.

It’s Bailey’s beautiful turns of phrase and imaginative similes that bring each tale to life. There’s a whimsical poetry to every sentence; each observation is filtered through his fluffy brain like he’s in one long, extended daydream.

But it’s when he gets behind an instrument that the musically-dexterous comic is at his best. Remixes of iPhone ringtones, German death metal covers of Abba songs and ‘Happy Birthday’ reimagined as a 1930s Berlin cabaret number are just a few highlights.

One setpiece – a Moby masterclass; not the most up-to-date of musical references, it has to be said – is foiled by tech problems tonight, but Bailey handles the derailment with aplomb. There’s a musical theme to his stories too, as he describes an awkward encounter with Sir Paul McCartney and a trip to see ‘boneless chickens’ One Direction at the O2.

It’s Bailey on top form; joyous, playful and effortlessly funny. ‘Limboland’ brings more festive cheer than Santa this Christmas.

Read our interview with Bill Bailey

Bill Bailey answers Londoners’ letters to Santa


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