Magazine article The Spectator

Liberal Baiting

Magazine article The Spectator

Liberal Baiting

Article excerpt

Pride and Prejudice and Niggas Arts

Cinderella Hackney Empire

Much Ado About Nothing Novello

Reginald D. Hunter watches TV crime reports in a state of near panic. 'O man, please don't let them be black.' This sense of responsibility for the actions of his fellow African Americans owes itself to the black power movement of his youth and to the pronouncements of figures like Richard Pryor, who urged black people to feel proud of anything done by any other black person. 'This means, ' Hunter reasons quizzically, 'I should feel proud of Mugabe, Don King and Trisha.' He cannot now shake off his sense of common liability and it even impinges on his stand-up career.

'Right now I'm looking at that black guy in the third row, I'm thinking if I'm not very good he'll go and tell the others.'

Hunter is hard to scan. He dresses like a bum, swears constantly and speaks in a lazy Texas drawl, so it's tempting to imagine he suffers from the other trailerpark failings, low intelligence and no facility for self-analysis. But Hunter has the brain of a QC, a fabulous eloquence, a fearless and profound self-knowledge and an exuberant affection for life's follies and horrors. He enjoys baiting liberals - note the title of his show - and his publicity material is blazoned with a quote from the Independent branding him 'the black Bernard Manning'. Nonsense, of course.

Hunter's subtle and brilliant forensic examination of his race's tortured psyche would be far beyond Manning's range.

And few comics have Hunter's courage.

He doesn't flinch even when his study of black consciousness leads him to make a joke that might have fallen out of a BNP Christmas cracker. 'I get a lot of hate mail from black people. I've never seen so many misspelled words.' The bloke three along from me (white) walked out when he heard that. The bloke behind me (black) roared his head off. You won't see Hunter on telly - too risky - but if his tour arrives near you I can recommend him as one of the funniest, most charming and most unsettling entertainers around.

Also well worth a look is the new Hackney panto, Cinderella. Susie McKenna has transposed the classic tale to 'Bethnal on the Green'. Particularly enjoyable are the hideous shrieking Ugly Sisters and the sardonic camp of Queen Roweena. …

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