Force Majeure translates as ‘Act of God’. Wikipedia notes it can also mean ‘unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract’. For Eddie Izzard, warmly loved and much admired as he is, Force Majeure falls into this latter category.
Despite some extraordinary planning which saw him appearing in Cape Town on the same nights as John Cleese, it was a packed house at Grand Arena that gave Izzard a rousing welcome with cheers and thunderous claps. Izzard shimmied on to the stage in his Executive Transvestite look, pared down to just eyeliner, nail polish and Cuban heels. He smiled that familiar smile, took a breath and everyone leant forward, brimful of anticipation.
Slowly but surely, the audience members settled back in their seats as Izzard launched into a rambling discussion of Greek gods, human sacrifice and religion, briefly sidetracking into topics such as moles searching for gold and how fit wild animals are. All interesting subjects and ripe for a comedic makeover but somehow it just didn’t get off the ground. Izzard’s natural wit and excellent knowledge are perhaps simply better when whetted against more everyday observational humour.
Izzard’s style of delivery is conversational and random, often skipping over important facts and concentrating on minutiae but this time it seemed almost unprepared. Jokes lingered for too long, quickly deflating as he tried hard to grind the punchline into the audience. Occasionally, and generally after a long pause, he would gain some applause and there were some sporadic laughs, especially in the second half when some of his old material popped a friendly head around the door.
The biggest laughs were reserved for references to Izzard’s famous canteen scene and his standby alibi ‘Steve’. For hardcore fans, this was pay-off enough, but as a rule the audience appeared to laugh more out of loyalty than sheer enjoyment. Others were left only puzzled by Izzard’s tendency to, for example, portray Marc Antony as a chicken. The hackling and cackling was absurd, yes, but not comedy.
Eddie Izzard will always be a funny man, and living up to his own reputation as a Comedy God is probably as hard as running a marathon a day for 50 days. But while Izzard memorably achieved the latter, this latest tour is rather a let down. I should have stayed home with ‘Steve’.
Force Majeure was performed on 18 July at the Grand Arena, Grand West