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A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
Michael Moore Live!
by Brian Clover

Would I do this show in the States? Hell no!

-- Michael Moore
From the Diary of Samuel Pepys:

Nov. 13: To Camden Towne to hear the famed Preecher Mr Michael MOORE late arrived on these shores from His Majestye's colony in N. America.
On my way there no fewer than five men loomed out from the shadows and whispered to me 'Mary Warner'. Perceeving by this that some poore child of the parish were lost and missing, my heart was moved but I hastened on by to ye Roundhouse.
Thus I was in time to hear all Preecher MOORE's most vigorous sermon. This MOORE is a fearsome bear of a man most strangely attired in the native N. American costume of bluedgenes and baise-paul cap. He preeches mightily and threatens us with images of HELL. To whit, he conjures up a dreadful apocalyptic future where his countrymen have cast off their allegiance to their rightfull king, declared themselves a Re-Public and hold the world to ransom with their flying machines, soft shoes, and sugared water drinks! While plainly absurd, such notions still terrify. Can such things be? Yes! says MOORE, If ye sin, they shall be! He then amuses us and we all become salvation-seeking putty in his enormous hands. Like many others gathered there, I confess my sins and resolve to live a better life.
On the return journey the poore fellowes are still crying out for their Mary Warner. Mindful of Preecher Moore's urgings to lead a better life I halt and address them thus: "My Fellowes, listen well to what I shall do. I shall hie me to the nearest police station and tell them of your Mary Warner. They will come here, they will make a thorough search and, have no doubt, THEY WILL FIND YOUR MARY WARNER!"
To my amazement, instead of thanking me the ingrates cursed and fell upon me, beating me senseless for my pains. Truly this is a wicked world!

Poor old Sam was right. Michael Moore's One and a Half Man Show is the work of a barnstorming evangelical preacher. The wonderfully atmospheric Roundhouse is hung with huge portraits of world leaders, but young and smiling to remind us of what they were in more innocent days. Moore gives us his view of what happened to them when he comes on stage.

Nervous at first, he soon hits his stride and his big theme, which is the politics of fear. Ironically, Moore himself uses fear, as well as anger, pity and laughter to convince us of his take on modern America. He is a radical and this is a radical view which many will disagree with. But Moore is a big man in more ways than one. He wants to make a difference and he wants to debate. He gives the audience the opportunity to challenge him at the end. They do. And he responds.

Along the way we are also treated to fun and games and these don't always work: phoning Kuwait's McDonalds in search of Osama bin Laden is neither funny nor revealing. "Stump the Yank", a game designed to prove the dumbest Brit is smarter than the cleverest American, also misfires. But when he phones Washington's enquiries operator and she cannot find the number of Office of Homeland Security you feel, well, just a little spooked.

But whether you agree with him or not, Moore's set pieces are impressive by any standard. His routine on airport security is as funny as one by Jerry Seinfeld, but it has a chilling edge. In the second half he makes us laugh with his lazy-boy Garrison Keillor-style high school reminiscences, but then quietly shifts gear into a dark and passionate meditation on the September 11th hijack victims. This moves everyone to the edge of their seat but Moore skilfully brings us down again by flourishing his British List of Lies - "Fresh Vegetables?" "NO THEY'RE NOT!" - "You need a college degree." "NO YOU DON'T!"

When finally he persuades many in the audience to stand up and shred their supermarket loyalty cards you can't help thinking of Billy Graham, or some other evangelist, working a crowd. Moore's aims are different but his technique is not so different. You may not go for his politics, but it is impossible not to admire his skills as an orator. The art of preaching is not dead.

Michael Moore Live!
Written and performed by Michael Moore
Directed by Tom Gianas

Designed by Julian McGowan
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan
Running time: Two hours with one 15 minute interval
Box Office: 0870 890 0512
Booking to 8th December 2002
Reviewed by Brian Clover based on 13th November 2002 performance at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 (Tube Stations: Camden Town/Chalk Farm)
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