REVIEW: ‘Punchline’ by Andrew Kay with Brian Capron at Lantern Theatre

Brian Butler April 14, 2024

Comedian Terry has got about as low as he can get in his career. He’s the compère for strippers with a second act spot to tell jokes before the band takes over.

And so, over 55 minutes he tells us his back story, cutting in and out of gags from famous comics and revealing bit by bit his terrible, violent past life at home.

The dark secret is introduced almost casually, the butt of a joke or two but finally it’s all too much for Terry. Andrew Kay’s monodrama Punchline has a double entendre title – it’s the pay-off of a gag and a tag for Terry’s home life.

It’s stunning, poignant and perfectly pitched by Brian Capron alias ex-Corrie serial killer Richard Hillman. Rupert Charmak’s direction is subtly understated, with beautiful touches like Terry’s obsession with physical details, like the position of his unsmoked cigs, his carefully folded trousers, the literal application of spit and polish to his stage shows.

Brian plays it all low-key, which makes the tragedy of his past seem almost mundane. During the show we meet a panoply of Terry’s comic heroes – Max Miller, Tommy Cooper, Jim Davidson, Les Dawson, and Terry has their voices off pat.

What Andrew, Rupert and Brian create for us is a masterclass in portraying the sad clown, and it all seems spontaneous, honest, viscerally real and now. 

Terry is a gentle, damaged soul, but ultimately a survivor, and re-telling his story to us or to himself – as 50 of us can’t be in his workingmen’s club dressing room – seems a cathartic experience. 

And if all that sounds heavy, it’s not played that way. We get some classic jokes like “I still enjoy sex at 74 – well I live at 75 so it’s not far to go”.

Rumour has it that the team plan further venues and even a tour for the show. I’ll keep you posted – it’s a little gem of theatre.

Punchline was at the Lantern Theatre, Brighton.