Jack Whitehall and Friends (in aid of Diabetes UK) - Savoy Theatre
Jack Whitehall is not the sort of person to be bashful about his personal life, and at this charity gig in aid of Diabetes UK, he introduced his parents, actress Hilary and television producer Michael, who spoke for a few minutes about their recent experience at a Christmas carol concert – which, by the standards of the rest of the evening, turned out to be relatively tame (they weren’t exactly going to beat Seann Walsh recounting his experiences of being in the Australian jungle with Matt flipping Hancock). At the start, it was explained that this gala event was the brainchild of Jack’s girlfriend, model Roxy Horner, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May 2021.
Active on social media, Roxy has been very candid about living with diabetes, and in the early days she was, in her own words, having “a few too many hypos for [her] liking”. One of her recent tweets reads simply, “My diabetes is really destroying me right now”. For the uninitiated, hypoglycaemia occurs when someone’s blood sugar levels dip dangerously low, such that the body responds by trying to get the sugar levels back up. For diabetics, this often results in getting the shakes, feeling very hungry, breaking into sweat. Technology has come a long way since I was diagnosed in January 2004, when blood sugar readings used to be taken routinely by using a ‘lancet’ to prick a finger to draw a small sample of blood, which would be put onto a test strip, itself inserted into a blood glucose monitor device, which I had to buy a particular type of battery for – not your standard AA or AAA ones. Some people still use these – I still have one knocking around somewhere – and they were casually referred to by Jack Whitehall as “old school fingerers”, which elicited the kind of response one would expect at a comedy gig.
Anyway, these days quite a few type 1 diabetics are on continuous glucose monitoring devices, made up of two parts, the ‘sensor’ and the ‘reader’. I don’t know where my actual ‘reader’ is anymore as I’ve not used anything other than a smartphone app instead. The sensor is attached to one’s upper arm and gauges sugar levels in the ‘interstitial fluid’, meaning under the skin. There are several products on the market – mine tells me whether my blood sugars are going up, down or nowhere, which is superior to just being given a number from the finger-prick checks of old. I don’t know what people like Roxy (and Jack) would think of me carrying around a dogeared notebook with handwritten records of blood sugar readings as well as test strips, monitoring device, lancets – and cotton wool, to help stop the bleeding after each reading. These days the NHS can access my details and can analyse the data with graphs and charts.
As was highlighted at the gala, there was a recent £50 million investment from the Steve Morgan Foundation to help scientists conduct further research into the condition and ultimately come up with a potential cure. The comedy itself was, by and large, top quality, even if some of the acts in the line-up were very predictable in their choice of topic – Alan Carr talked about being camp, Jimmy Carr (no relation) talked about being cancelled, and Eshaan Akbar talked about being Asian. I loved Russell Howard’s send-up of Jack Whitehall’s earlier stand-up routine, in which he (Whitehall) expressed displeasure at apparently not being properly recognised in society and in the press when it came to stories about alumni of the Dragon School, in Oxford (Tom Hiddleston and Emma Watson, amongst others, allegedly get far more column inches).
Thanyia Moore had a strong stage presence, talking about how she ended up with an odd name (Tanya, but spelt weirdly), before introducing the largely non-plussed audience to a song by Vybz Kartel, a Jamaican reggae artist and composer, called ‘Bicycle’. The man himself, I later discovered, was sentenced to life for murder, and will not be eligible for parole until 2046. Anyway, the key lyric for Thanyia was “ride pon di cocky like a bicycle”, which led to a hilarious demonstration of what that would look like if taken literally. As ever, one sits in the front row at one’s own peril, and an 18-year-old man found himself interacting with Jimmy Carr as he (Carr) put forward various scenarios and asked him to determine whether getting one’s member out would be appropriate. The best audience interaction, for me, was between Jimmy Carr and Dylan, a builder – and, more pertinently for Carr’s set, an anti-vaxxer. Carr quickly systematically demolished Dylan’s views, and the crowd loved it.
I don’t normally see much comedy outside the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, so it was nice to experience an entire evening of it in the West End. Seann Walsh, still known for falling for the ‘Strictly curse’ some years ago, splitting up with his then girlfriend after kissing his dance partner in the BBC Television series Strictly Come Dancing (and not as part of a dance act, if you know what I mean), spoke at length about the frustrations of self-service checkouts at the supermarket. Laura Smyth waxed lyrical about body positivity and interactions with her grown-up daughter, which were mildly amusing even if the critic in me sees nothing new about the up and coming generation not seeing eye to eye on everything with the generation before theirs. Still, an enjoyable night, and for a good cause.