Tonight, Sheffield is made to feel like the biggest city on the planet. Firstly, we’re late setting off and then when we get about 15 minutes away, there’s a road closed which delays us even further and by the time we park up it feels like we’ve been driving forever. Afterwards, it feels like it takes us endless hours to reach the M1, making for a late night that I’d have rather avoided. In between though, was An Evening with The Fast Show, so it’s swings and roundabouts – thankfully the metaphorical kind where I’m not flinging a car at an exit at the last second.

For four years of the ‘90s (’94-’97) The Fast Show made me cry laughing, not only because of the mix of hilarious characters and memorable catchphrases, but also because my dad just didn’t understand it, which made me laugh all the more!

As we take our seats it’s noticeable how bare the stage looks. There’s a big screen at the back of a row of chairs and they’re flanked by two rails of clothing. It’s not long before the penny drops though, when I spot the puffa jacket belonging to Paul Whitehouse’s ‘Brilliant’ character. So that’s what they’re up to. Subtlety isn’t something I would have associated with the show, but here we are.

Maybe it’s understandable; after all, the last live shows were back in 2002 and we’ve all aged and slowed down a bit in that time! The beginning of the evening is similarly understated. After a quick run through of the opening credits to the show, Charlie Higson simply strolls on stage and begins to tell us how it all began. But it’s not long until there’s a gear change as Paul Whitehouse enters the fray, staggering on from stage right with a bottle of champagne as The 13 th Duke of Wybourne to
enormous cheers. And away we go!

The rest of the remaining cast follow over the next twenty minutes or so. Mark Williams is another staggerer, this time as Jesse to let us in on what he’s been mostly eating this week before coming back as himself to let us know how he joined the cast 30 years ago. Then there’s Arabella Weir asking us if her bum looks big in this before Simon Day and John Thompson complete the evening.

It’s a gentle start – not quite as pacey as The Fast Show once was, I guess – but given the fact that these are five of the funniest people from most of our younger years, it doesn’t matter. A smattering of catchphrases and lots of funny stories about the series mean that the room is ultimately filled with laughter for a good couple of hours.

Throughout the evening we’re treated to turns from many of the beloved characters from the show. The puffa jacket is indeed taken from the rack as Brilliant saunters across the stage to tell us what’s lighting up his life currently. There’s a fantastic few minutes with Ted and Ralph, the aristocrat still awkwardly pursuing his estate worker, this time with an offer to go and see Tina Turner. As usual, he doesn’t quite show the courage of his convictions and the jokes on Ralph as first Ted tells him “I wouldn’t know a lot about that sir” before leaving the stage singing ‘River Deep Mountain High’.

Ron Manager and friends make a couple of appearances, leaving us with a disturbing image of Gary Lineker’s face bearing down on us, but we won’t dwell on that! Thompson’s turn as

Professor Denzil Dexter is hilarious because his wig and ‘tache won’t stay on, despite the fact that he hides behind a flight case for an age in order to make his ‘transformation’ from everyday lab tech into Dexter himself!

The highlights tonight are many, as you’d expect with so many beloved characters. The Suit You tailors are fantastic and when they’ve finished embarrassing Higson and turn to the audience to find their next victim, I want it to go on far longer than it does.

Dave Angel receives a huge cheer and doesn’t disappoint with the tale of how he met his wonderful wife Shirley, as well as giving us updates on his status as an eco-warrior. Booosh! In among the hilarity though there’s also poignancy as we remember the great Caroline Aherne, who John Thompson tells us wouldn’t have done this version of the show as she hated live stuff.

After the remaining cast have talked of Caroline for a few minutes we’re then treated to a selection of her best Fast Show moments featuring the comic genius of Roy and Renee, the Chanel 9 Weather Girl – “Scorchio!” – and the wonderfully blunt Checkout Girl. And at this point, I think we’re all crying laughing, just a bit.

We finish tonight with a manic section of sketches from Colin Hunt, Rowley Birkin QC (“I really was very, very drunk”) and Swiss Toni before Thompson comes back on to welcome us to the one we’ve all been waiting for; Jazz Club…nice! Tonight, it’s surprisingly jazzless though and instead we have Folk Club featuring a brilliantly hilarious medley by Bob Fleming, Clive Tucker and Paul Whitehouse’s Jed Thomas stealing the show with his perfectly timed “ARSE!” Not a sentence I ever thought I’d write.

And then, it’s time for The Fast Show gang to slip off into the night and as we stand, whoop
and applaud, no one’s in any doubt that it’s been absolutely amazing…or maybe even just