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Mo Gilligan and Friends: The Black British Takeover at the O2 review: A sparkling showcase of talent

·2-min read
 (Handout)
(Handout)

“It’s not the O2, it’s the MO2.” Compere Eddie Kadi delivered an accurate verdict on this gig halfway through proceedings. After a sell-out tour superstar stand-up Mo Gilligan played his biggest London gig yet a short drive from Camberwell where he grew up.

Except that this night, titled Mo Gilligan and Friends: The Black British Takeover, was not supposed to be all about Gilligan. As the subtitle underlined, the evening was also about shining a light on black talent that warrants wider exposure.

After an impressive and impressively punctual opening turn from Thanyia Moore and warm-up music from The Compozers, houseband on Gilligan’s C4 series The Lateish Show, Kadi introduced a varied selection of acts.

The British-Congolese comic was a skilful host with a cheeky streak, making the cavernous arena feel unexpectedly intimate. It did not take more than the most modest squeal from the audience as he changed jackets for him to flip into flirtatious vaudevillian mode: “Stop it ladies, find your own man.”

Babatúndé Aléshé’s blessing and curse is that he is known as “Mo’s friend” from their Celebrity Gogglebox appearances. He really deserves a breakthrough in his own right. He had a particularly nice line in contrasting his son’s gilded childhood with his strict upbringing. His five-year-old already has an iPad, Aléshé joked that his only toy was the Bible.

Ola Labib claimed to be the first black Muslim Sudanese female stand-up at the O2 and was probably right. Certainly the first from Portsmouth. She had a short spot before Slim, a veteran of the ‘urban’ circuit. With his jokes about cats, dogs and the tedium of parenthood he was strong on entertainment if not originality.

There was no doubt that most of the audience had come for Gilligan and within seconds of his entrance it was clear why. The TV regular’s routines are enjoyable and utterly relatable. As a fellow south Londoner I’ve eaten in the McDonald’s he mentions, but I’d have been laughing if I’d never entered a fast food joint. He has charm and funny bones to burn.

His set would have rounded the evening off perfectly if only it had been longer than 30 minutes. Instead Gilligan generously made way for a surprise appearance from Jamaican dancehall legend Beenie Man. His barked out lyrics got everyone swaying but I would have happily swapped him for more of Mo’s terrific tales of gentrification, geezers and family Christmases past.

02 Arena, SE10

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