Marcel Lucont is one of the great comic characters of the new millenium; a soft-spoken Gallic egotist with bare feet beneath his blue suit, and a large glass of pinot noir permanently in hand. He’s the creation of the (non-French) Alexis Dubus, and his shows have, for many years, been a highlight of the Fringe.
Dubus has the gift of being able to think on his feet
Whine List is a welcome return to Edinburgh for Lucont, after a year of adulterous flings with other festivals (“Yes,” he murmurs, as if to a jilted lover, “there ‘ave been others”). His pre-written material includes some excellent riffs (Lucont’s explanation of why Brexit is like “sex with someone you despise” struck a chord with the crowd),but the majority of the show is dependent on the audience’s contributions. Before entering the venue, punters are polled about their worst day at work, worst sexual experiences, and other whine-worthy topics, so that their written responses can be projected onto a screen and treated to Lucont’s scathing analysis. In his words, “it’s like a group therapy session, but with everyone just a bit more depressed.”
Dubus has the gift of being able to think on his feet – as proven by his appearances at the stand-up-improv night Set List – but the Lucont persona doesn’t lend itself enormously well to audience back-and-forth: in the performance I saw, the crowd were somewhat shy, even sheepish, when called on to interact with him. He’s on safer turf when sparring with other comedians, as in his 2011 chat show.
However, the varied format of the show offers a refreshing change of gear whenever his chats with the audience start to wear thin. Between the “whines”, we’re treated to a Sinatra-esque musical number about ejaculation, and an an excerpt from Lucont’s autobiography – a wonderful flight of fancy, which sees the young flaneur running away to join the circus. The latter was perhaps more eloquent than amusing, but entertaining all the same.
Despite its focus on improvised badinage, the real highlight of this show is its least spontaneous segment: a glossy short film in which Lucont muses on the English character, while interviewing the denizens of a crap seaside resort. Dubus has a gift for skewering the more parochial elements of the national psyche, and this uproariously funny mockumentary will surely have any TV producers in the audience taking notes: with the shadow of Brexit looming, it’s the perfect time for Lucont to make a barefoot leap onto the small screen.