“I arranged that moon,” Eddie Izzard announced in the middle of his one-off gig at the De La Warr Pavilion last night, breaking off mid-sentence to gesture at the dramatic backdrop. “We ordered it in for you Bexhill.”
And whatever combination of weather apps had been employed by the comedian and Pavilion staff was a winning one. The setting was magnificent. A single spotlight picked out Eddie, prowling up and down the stage in his shiny Russell and Bromley heels. Spread out behind was the sea, the moon, all hanging and poetic, gulls wheeling about, and event staff moving like ghosts around the colonnade. And perching on top of the rowing club was a small group of non-paying extras whose view was blocked by the ticketing fence but who still got “the radio four version”, plus a merry wave from Eddie in his preamble.
This was always going to be a popular gig. Partly because Izzard is world-renowned, of course, and in that sense last night’s show is another coup for the Pavilion; but also because we all know Eddie grew up here, which makes this a bit special. And it did feel like that. When he spoke about pinching make-up from the Boots on Devonshire Road “over there”, going to terrible parties in the Polegrove, and going to school in Eastbourne College “just over there”, it cements his material into the everyday maps of our lives. He spoke about the bus on the Pavilion roof! He knows Egerton Park! And given that he’s toured this show all over the world in three different languages, that feels just great. The whole evening had a relaxed, almost slouchy feel to it, with the Pavilion’s cunning “festival-style” marketing transforming the concreted bandstand terrace into a sea of cushions and rugs, and Eddie picking his way through the audience to reach the stage.
There were moments of brilliance. A return to his Star Wars canteen sketch of fifteen years ago saw Darth Vader scrapping with God over the final carbonara. The logic of human sacrifice was shown to be patchy, and a skit involving a dead St Bernard hairpiece showed Eddie at his best: a combination of physical comedy and mental sharpness. The second half started with an explanation of why you need to have a big ego to make jokes work that included a hilarious demonstration of unconvincing storytelling.
He paused for breath at times, occasionally losing his place and getting distracted by a TV in a nearby flat, but that was all good grist for his improvisational mill, and added to the relaxed feel of a home gig. Eddie has toured this show for months now, and for the most part the performance was slick, energetic, and engaging.
Around 1,300 turned up last night. About half (to judge by the scientifically valid instrument of shouting in response to the question) were actually from Bexhill, which is itself a sort of mini-miracle confirming how far the Pavilion has come in recent years. It used to be that there was a kind of barrier between the De La Warr and its immediate audience, a little moat filled with mutual scepticism. Events like this show how much the situation has changed.