Timing is everything. Just as this one-man show kicked off in a landmark public theatre on the Champs Elysées, defamation proceedings were launched against its star by Zinedine Zidane. Christophe Alévêque’s recent description of the French footballer as “an advertising billboard with three neurones” is the stand-up comic’s equivalent of the headbutt: like his new show, it’s impassioned, provocative and anything but subtle.
The “monstrous current affairs” of the title gives you the flavour. Newspapers are strewn all over the set. Alévêque hurtles through the headlines as a mirror to today’s mad world, following in the comic footsteps of Guy Bedos and attentive to audience reaction. His satirical sights zoom in on political/media/corporate exploitation of everything from swine flu to the global recession to the recent deaths of young French hostages – and all things neither bright nor beautiful.
There are some funny sections. A politician is the only fruit that rots before it ripens, declaims Alévêque after vicious skits on nepotism, the burka ban and repatriation of immigrants. Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution is hailed as an example of how to get rid of a president without an opposition party, and its spread to Marseilles gleefully imagined. The hapless Socialists are gently lampooned to the strains of Chopin’s funeral march. The president is recast as Ben Sarkozy, Ségolène Royal as Joan of Arc and leftwing politicians who jumped ship get stuck doing the splits. France’s latest pharmaceutical scam gets a corrosive drubbing: “Experts can seriously damage your health.”
Some things pull the show down. Parts are plain unfunny even if they gets an easy laugh. Efforts to improvise around the latest tragedies feel oddly tentative and clunky. Without a unifying theme to lighten the indignation (his previous show, Super Rebel, kitted him out in red cape and padded pants), the angry polemic gradually crowds out whimsy – think pitbull in hobnailed boots. Director Philippe Sohier misses an opportunity with the musicians on stage: despite some nice drumming from Stéphane Sangline, the few songs are played and sung too loudly for the lyrics even to be heard.