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At Large: Dave Allen - A Journey Through Life (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Although Dave Allen constructed his tales like jokes he was not really a comedian. At Large, by Kieran Cunningham and Steven McNicoll, places Allen in the tradition of Irish storytellers. Unlike many of his contemporaries Allen preferred to analyse the eccentricities of the Irish and English and to ridicule concepts of religion than to get laughs from stereotypes and casual racism.

Dave Allen looks back on his life as he auditions to enter heaven. Although this concept borders on cliché, it is an effective way providing detail about the subject in particular the origins of Allen’s antagonistic relationship with religion and the source of his anger at the early deaths of his father (himself a raconteur) and his alcoholic brother.

Director Andrew Farrell Readman sets the play in the style of Allen’s stage act, which is a bit static but suits the intimate theatre.Cunningham is vocally perfect as Allen and replicates his casual approach in relating to the audience. He suggests also a degree of regret and self-disgust, he character recalls how his heavy smoking resulted in the emphysema that made him a virtual recluse towards the end of his life.

At Large is an affectionate tribute to a master of the underrated art of weaving tall tales.
- Dave Cunningham


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