★★★☆☆ Leicester Square theatre, London Touring until 13 June
It’s been a big year for south London comic Mo Gilligan. Twelve months ago, he was selling jeans. Now, he’s playing the Albert Hall, Drake quotes his catchphrases, and he has sold out 22 nights at Leicester Square theatre. It all seems out of proportion to the cheerful amateurism of the online sketches that made his name. But there is no denying he’s equipped for this level of success: his show Coupla Cans is a good-time 90 minutes, showcasing an act with formidable character-comedy chops and a lovely ease and confidence.
The material is cosily familiar, but he brings it to smooth, sparkling life, always sharing in the amusement he generates. The set pieces are usually role plays (the family wedding; the girls’ night out; the school classroom), with Gilligan inhabiting many of the characters who populate his online work. (Different Type of Grime MCs; Types of Girls in a Club, etc.) The social rituals of young black Britons are laid bare as couples dance to bashment music. Another section finds schoolboy Mo ineptly stealing “ice poles” from under his authoritarian mum’s nose.
The geezer character who gives the show its title appears in a football skit, and we get Gilligan’s rasta dad reworking nursery rhymes. The spirit of
Lee Evans (of whom Gilligan is a fan) haunts a skit about mums miming song lyrics – one of several observational routines that strain for consensuality. “Every group of guys has the ugly guy,” he’ll say, or, “All aunties do that fake auntie smile.” Do they? There’s no need for that overreach; there is plenty for us all to recognise and enjoy in this crowd-pleasing set by a newfound star.
Crowd-pleaser … Mo Gilligan