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on 29 December 2013
Eddie Izzard has become something of a national treasure over the years, and it's easy to see why. Ten to fifteen years ago his annual DVD release of his latest show was a must-have - and the idea of cats purring, being covered in bees and God creating Belgium became in-jokes for anyone who had fallen under the Izzard spell. Then came Circle, which was something which we hoped was just a little bump in the road of greatness, but actually spelled the beginning of the end. Each release since then has been more and more disappointing.
So, what is the problem here? Are we just so used to Eddie Izzard's style and way of thinking that we know longer find it as surreal and funny as it used to be? I think that may be some of it - I'd like to see what people who haven't seen the earlier DVDs such as Unrepeatable and Glorious think of Force Majeure. They may find it as hilarious as us Izzard veterans found those earlier releases.
The subjects that Izzard tackles on the new DVD are, to be fair, classic Izzard subjects - human sacrifice, Caesar, and the dressage at the Olympics. It should be a hoot. But I just found myself wishing he would shut up. His sense of pacing seems to have left him. The mimes that used to be so funny just go on for too long now - it's like a film where the director forgot to say "cut". In fact all the sequences go on for too long - he really does get every last drop out of each joke. And the venue probably doesn't help. Izzard's best DVDs have been in more intimate theatres - I'm not sure an arena setting helps. The audience seem to be enjoying themselves, and we spend much of the video looking at them laughing...presumably to remind us this is meant to be funny. Sadly, it's monotonous and goes nowhere fast. The dressage sequence raised a few smiles but, again, long outstayed its welcome.
In the earlier performances, Izzard didn't have to be funny to be constantly interesting. His thoughts on the death of Princess Diana on (I think) Dress to kill were not funny at all (thankfully), but they were interesting and thought-provoking - and one wishes for something remotely as thoughtful here. But most of the material is just plain dull. He seems like the same old Eddie Izzard, and he delivers the material in the same old way. It SHOULD work, but it doesn't. Perhaps comedy and comedians do have a short shelf-life. A sitcom can run for years, but it's way past its best but sticks around because it has become something of an institution. This DVD feels a bit like that. It's nice to know that Eddie Izzard is still doing his stand-up gigs, but his best moments have passed and seem to have been very much rooted to a particular time around a decade or so ago. Perhaps we should welcome each release as it may be the last, as a move to politics seems to be beckoning - but Force Majeure would be a bit of a limp swansong.