Halfway through this likeable but ill-conceived show, Gráinne Maguire recounts an anecdote of her short-lived stint as a primary school teacher. On the last day before Christmas, Maguire recalls, she looked into other teachers’ classrooms to see a winter wonderland of Christmas treats; in her own, a solitary bottle of Fanta, brought by a hopeful parent. But, despite their lack of cotton wool snow, they had a party anyway, sitting in a circle passing from child to child the solitary bottle of pop.
Gráinne Maguire’s One Hour All Night Election Special might be that classroom. Its theme is a flimsy peg: we’re promised a celebration of all things General Election, but a convoluted series of votes, rosettes, interviews and coloured flipcharts saps the life from the show. The live ‘election’ is a concept too far and its at once chaotic and perfunctory execution leaves the audience yearning for less gimmick and more material.
Despite Maguire’s professed love of politics and elections, real familiarity and affection never shine through – ‘South Sunderland’, anyone? – and we’re left with tired observations on the drinking habits of Cherie Blair and what it might be like to date Ed Miliband. This is comedy that aims to satirise the big beast of power, but ends up instead dancing round its legs, pulling feebly at its trousers.
Any show billed with such a theme might struggle to satisfy both halves of an audience, those lured by the promise of political geekery and those dragged along. Maguire makes a timid effort, interspersing the election theme with more personal reflections on childhood dance competitions, growing up in Ireland as the middle sister, and IRA-sympathising grandmothers. But these sections, while gently amusing, are rarely sharp enough to raise more than gentle chuckles in the room, and end up feeling like padding to flesh out the hour.
Maguire is an immensely likeable presence, and the hour contains glimmers of promise: an inspired routine on the parallels between public and household debt will live long in the memory. But the theme of the show and its surrounding architecture tramples on these funny moments in the service of another flipchart to be coloured in, a concept to be adhered to. There’s the kernel of a great show here, but sadly, this isn’t yet it.