REVIEW: David Brent and Foregone Conclusion, New Theatre, Oxford

Ricky Gervais peforming as David Brent

Ricky Gervais peforming as David Brent

First published in Theatre/Comedy
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In a classic  episode of The Office Ricky Gervais’ David Brent hinted at a failed musical career with a band called Foregone Conclusion, who once toured with a little band called Texas.

Ten years later, at the New Theatre in Oxford, we see evidence of why that career failed as the reformed band takes to the road with a collection of dreadful soft rock power ballads and reggae fusion disasters.

Gervais stays in character as Brent throughout the short 45-minute set, although this never seems as much of a stretch as the Francis Rossi waistcoat struggling to contain his paunch.

His singing is supported by a four-piece band with drums, bass, lead guitar and keyboards. They are good musicians, too good in fact because they give the songs way more polish then they deserve.

The conceit of the show is that Brent, now long departed from that Slough paper suppliers, is a sales rep who has managed to scrape enough cash together to reform his band, minus one or two members who have been overtaken either by age or the criminal justice system.

On TV, Brent’s ignorance and prejudice are so much easier to understand, especially as their crassness can be measured in the reactions of those around him. But on stage they are often too subtle to hit home and he has to work harder to get them across. This isn’t always successful so some of the lyrics Gervais uses to demonstrate Brent’s stupidity just come across as bland pastiche.

Having said that, a whimsical tribute to Slough, a ditty about a romantic encounter with a traveller and , from the TV show, Freelove Freeway are laugh out loud funny.

There is also surprisingly little engagement with the audience. During instrumental breaks Gervais often wanders to the back of the stage to sip from a can instead of performing. There is a point where he almost breaks into the iconic MC Hammer dance from series two of The Office but just as the audience responds, he reins back.

There are one or two desperate attempts to tease him out of his isolation as audience members hurl out heckles and insults in a bid to goad him into some banter. But you get the sense this is a carefully scripted set and he wants to blast through, take a bow and get back to London (or maybe Slough).

He takes to the stage around 8.25 and by 9.10 we are walking out of the theatre. Maybe less is more but you feel as if, like Brent in the fast lane of the M4 home, he is coasting a little.

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