Geoff Norcott: stand-up’s affable Tory
Geoff Norcott is that rarest of things: a right-of-centre comic. And a working-class son of a trade unionist to boot. Having hinted at his politics in previous Fringe shows, Conswervative is devoted to it. Landing somewhere between a coming-out ceremony and a trial-by-audience, this punchy, goodhearted show explores how he ended up voting Conservative, and why punters at the biggest liberal-arts festival in the world should give him – and his views – a hearing.
The atmosphere is electric. Nestled in a small room at the Underbelly, it doesn’t take long for the sharp intakes of breath to begin. Norcott waxes lyrical about welfare dependency, shabby school standards and simpering social workers, drawing on his years in the Brixton DSS and his pre-comedy career as a teacher. He’s no Tory loyalist; he begins the show with a perfectly pitched gag about the new post-Brexit cabinet, who he likens to a bunch of Bond villains. But though asides like this buy him some leeway, the rest of the show feels every bit an act of heresy.
Norcott is at the top of his game. The gags, anecdotes and one-liners are tightly wound and often land a laugh against the audience’s best intentions. He sends up liberal-left do-gooders while never resorting to caricature. Midway through, he holds a heckle amnesty; ‘if there’s one thing the Edinburgh Fringe needs more of it’s lefties having their say’, he quips. But though he gives as good as he gets, he comes across sincere and open, urging his audience to question their own views in a way so few political Fringe shows do. When, in the second half of the show, he announces that, to cap it all, he voted Leave, he’s already got the audience on the defensive.
Conswervative does more than just rile the audience. Yes, it’s about how a working-class bloke ended up voting Tory. But it’s also about how left-wing politics has lost touch with the working class. His dad, a disabled socialist who refused benefits all his life, is a recurring character here, and a paragon of the kind of working-class aspiration and self-reliance that Norcott feels is so alien to the modern, welfarist left. This is as much an indictment of Labour as it is a paean to Toryism. And though in SNP-held Scotland and the (just about) Labour-loyal north of England, ‘working-class Tory’ is still a contradiction in terms, for southerners, Norcott’s story will be all-too familiar.
Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
Geoff Norcott: Conswervative is at Underbelly Med Quad until 28 August.