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“Ted Talk – the panto!” is how Grayson Perry describes his touring set, A Show for Normal People. In it, gambolling around the stage in a silvery babygrow, he canvasses audience responses to a few dozen questions gauging how normal we are – or consider ourselves to be. Perry is not normal, of course; there’s no false modesty here. But neither, he argues, is normality much use as a category. Hide behind it, and some eccentric part of you will remain exposed. Flee it, and watch as thousands of others do so in the same – normal – way.
To respond to Perry’s survey, we download an app at the start of the show. What’s your dream job?, we’re asked. Or more intimately: did you get enough attention as a child? The answers mount up in real time onscreen; Perry cackles devilishly, even when the tallies are predictable. As many are: the survey isn’t always illuminating, nor does it have forward momentum, as Perry splices in standup, autobiographical anecdote and a slideshow about the kinky hinterland of the puffer jacket. Perry’s energy and enjoyment are infectious – but there’s too much material that over-articulates his point, or adds little to it.
There’s singing too, which – Perry admits – is not his strong suit. One number bemoans life “dressed in dull monochrome in a mundane part of town”, from which – not uniquely tonight – a whiff of condescension arises. Having deplored cliche earlier in the show, another song mocks the “metropolitan liberal elite” with references to Agas, Converse trainers and campervans.
By this stage, Perry’s aim is clear: to mock any sense we might have of our own originality, and invite us to reject anyone else’s standards of normalcy. Which he himself does in Act Two, a far-out sermon at the church of his iconic childhood teddy Alan Measles, whose biography is reimagined along Christ-like lines. “Impose thy will upon Earth’s mess,” sings our host, “Else your life is meaningless.” The blithe oddity of this finale can’t wholly redeem the preceding bagginess. But it sends you out into the night emboldened to embrace the idiosyncratic and keep dull monochrome at bay.