Simon Evans’ postponed dates have been rescheduled again with tickets for he Work of the Devil on sale.
Simon’s last tour, Genius 2.0, provided a comedic analysis of the departure of any visible sign of intelligence from modern life. But his new show raises the stakes, with his usual excoriating views of a world on fire – given a perspective shift due to personal revelations that have recently turned his world upside down. In 2019, Evans adapted to unexpected personal revelations of a quite extraordinary nature, and used them to re-examine his entire 23-year career in comedy to date.
Simon Evans has a loyal fan base who greatly appreciate his scrutiny of the modern world. His tongue-in-cheek, often rueful attachment to traditionalism, and his scepticism towards the claimed achievements of progressive politics and modernist aesthetics, have set him apart from many of his contemporaries. As well as making him a firm favourite on the usual platforms – Live at the Apollo, the Edinburgh Festival and the corporate circuit in particular – these qualities allow him to provide much-needed latitude and offer a diversity of views on TV and radio programmes, from BBC One’s Question Time to Radio 4’s The News Quiz. He has also written and presented five series of the groundbreaking economics/comedy hybrid Simon Evans Goes to Market, also for Radio 4.
After twenty years of watching one of the country’s most erudite, well-loved and downright funny comedians, Simon Evans’s fans could be excused for thinking they know who is and what he’s about. Dry, teasingly non-PC and openly baffled by much of modern life – not to say his own family – Evans has created a strongly defined on-stage persona that has served him well over that time.
But almost incredible revelations about his true identity left him reeling – and have made his newest tour show, The Work of the Devil, by far his most memorable, eye-opening and thought-provoking work to date. It’s also his most engaging, audiences reporting that tears of laughter mingled at the end with stronger currents of emotion.
“It’s an unusual show for me in that regard,” he says. “Because the message of the show – almost beyond my conscious control – has become one that is genuinely heart-warming and uplifting, rather than just another weary sigh at society’s collapsing values and so on. And honestly, I couldn’t be happier. The subject matter, the show itself and audience reaction to it – it’s no exaggeration to say that it had a positive effect on my mental health, just performing it every night.”
It’s a very different kind of vibe to his last show, Genius 2.0, about the effect that “dumbing down” has had on everything from our political culture to our kids.
“It starts in a similar vein – scrutinising identity politics and resurgent Nationalism, subjecting them to my usual piggy-eyed scrutiny and scepticism. But then we move through a gradual shift of perspective as I approach the Big Reveal – the news I received that throws literally everything I’ve said in the show – and arguably as a comedian, ever – into a dramatic new light.”
The title of the show – The Work of The Devil, comes from Evans’ comedic hero, Douglas Adams.
“It’s from one of his unpublished, unfinished passages for Dirk Gently – a theory about the three different stages of progress in everyone’s life. Firstly, there’s what existed before you were born and until the age of about 12 or 13: with me, I grew up accepting that television, for instance, simply existed. Then there are things which are invented in our late teens and 20s which are exciting innovations that offer us opportunities to experience the thrills our parents never knew. For me, again, computers, digital watches, and arguably sandwich toasters. And then there are things which arrive from our mid-30s onwards, by which point we can no longer keep up with change and which we therefore denounce as the work of The Devil. Any innovation that arrives after that point leaves you saying ‘You mark my words – no good will come of this’.”
Adams intends the theory to relate to technology, but Evans wonders if it is becoming relevant to our relationship with political and social change too now. Everything from changing family structures to geo-political transformations are creating a world that Evans initially feels requires a healthy dose of his good old fashioned, robust common sense. But then comes the big surprise, as Evans virtually whips the rug away from under his own feet.
Tempting though it is to drop clues, the show will be that much more rewarding for those who have no idea what is coming. But satisfyingly, it does follow on organically from some of the loose ends that were left at the end of Genius 2.0.
“Part of the inspiration for Genius 2.0 was my sense that my own intelligence, memory, focus, reaction times and so on were all in steep decline, and at a younger age than I would suggest that was inevitable. I did routines about it that got laughs of recognition, but at the back of my mind I had a niggling doubt that this was beyond normal deterioration. It was my investigation into that which yielded the new information which birthed this show.
Evans has taken an original and at times counter-intuitive route to his current status as one of the most reliable and thought-provoking stand-ups in the country. Alongside appearances in Live at the Apollo and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, and six national tours, have been five series of Simon Evans Goes To Market, his comedy lectures for BBC Radio Four on the Economics of Everything. It’s partly Evans’ determination to do comedy that’s about something which marks him out from the pack.
And Simon is also finding that his stand-up is, to paraphrase an old ad, hitting a spot that other comedians cannot reach. “What I’m gradually realising is that while my views may not have changed that much, the world has shifted underneath me, and I’m now something of an outlier. There seems to be more of a political consensus among comedians than ever before, for want of a better word, and half the country is struggling to find their voice heard; what has happened, of course, is Brexit. It has polarised the nation, and the overwhelming majority of comedians seem very comfortable expressing their Remain views and I do feel that I’m getting an audience which is looking for a break from all that. Not that I’m pro-Brexit exactly, but ironically, I have preached a lot more tolerance for a wider range of views, even though I’ve made my career in character as the most intolerant old bugger you can imagine.”
The joy of any Simon Evans stand-up show is to watch a comic at the peak of his powers dissecting big ideas and exploring complex notions while finding great jokes within it all. The Work of The Devil, however, delivers all that – plus the most incredible true story, one that brings a completely new dimension to stand-up comedy and which will stay with you for a very long time.
Wednesday, 19th May 2021 Wimborne Tivoli Theatre www.tivoliwimborne.co.uk
Thursday, 20th May Leicester The Y Theatre www.leicesterymca.co.uk
Sunday, 6th June Sheffield The Leadmill www.leadmill.co.uk
Friday, 16th July Bath Widcombe Social Club (Festival) www.bathcomedy.com
Wednesday, 11th August North Berwick Fringe by the Sea www.fringebythesea.com
Saturday 14th –
Sunday 22nd August Edinburgh Fringe Festival Assembly George Square Gardens assemblyfestival.com
Thursday, 2nd September Cirencester Sundial www.ticketsource.co.uk
Friday, 3rd September Banbury The Mill Arts Centre www.themillartscentre.co.uk
Saturday, 4th September Leeds The Wardrobe www.thewardrobe.co.uk
Tuesday, 7th September Cheltenham Town Hall (Pillar Room) www.cheltenhamtownhall.org
Thursday, 9th September Taunton Brewhouse www.thebrewhouse.net
Friday, 10th September Swindon Arts Centre https://swindontheatres.co.uk
Saturday, 11th September Otley Courthouse https://otleycourthouse.org.uk
Sunday, 12th September London Leicester Square Theatre www.leicestersquaretheatre.com
Thursday, 16th September Twickenham The Exchange exchangetwickenham.co.uk
Friday, 17th September Christchurch The Regent www.regentcentre.co.uk
Sunday, 19th September London Leicester Square Theatre www.leicestersquaretheatre.com
Wednesday, 22nd September Lincoln New Theatre Royal www.ents24.com
Thursday, 23rd September Colchester Arts Centre www.colchesterartscentre.com
Saturday, 25th September Millom The Beggar’s Theatre https://beggarstheatre.com
Sunday, 26th September (5pm and 8pm shows merged to 8pm) Newcastle upon Tyne The Stand www.thestand.co.uk/newcastle
Wednesday, 29th September Sudbury Quay Theatre www.quaysudbury.com
Saturday, 9th October Kettering Arts Centre ketteringartscentre.com
Thursday, 14th October Andover The Lights www.thelights.org.uk
Friday, 15th October Andover The Lights www.thelights.org.uk
Saturday, 23rd October Saffron Walden Town Hall www.jesterlarf.com
Thursday, 28th October High Wycombe Old Town Hall https://wycombeswan.co.uk
Friday, 29th October Bakewell Town Hall www.bakewelltownhall.co.uk
Saturday, 30th October Richmond, N. Yorks Georgian Theatre Royal www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk
Thursday, 4th November Bognor Regis Regis Centre alexandratheatre.co.uk
Wednesday, 10th November Salford The Lowry https://thelowry.com
Thursday, 11th November Darwen Library Theatre darwenlibrarytheatre.com
Friday, 12th November Chorley Theatre https://chorleytheatre.com
Friday, 19th November Monmouth Savoy Theatre www.monmouth-savoy.co.uk
Saturday, 20th November Exeter Corn Exchange www.exetercornexchange.co.uk
Saturday, 27th November Bordon Phoenix Theatre www.phoenixarts.co.uk
Saturday, 29th January 2022 Newport,
Isle of Wight Medina Theatre medinatheatre.co.uk
Friday, 4th February Tunbridge Wells Trinity Theatre www.trinitytheatre.net
Thursday, 10th February Redruth Regal Theatre www.merlincinemas.co.uk
Thursday, 24th February Milton Keynes The Stables https://stables.org
Saturday, 26th February Worcester Huntingdon Hall www.worcesterlive.co.uk
Wednesday, 2nd March Barnard Castle The Witham https://thewitham.org.uk
Thursday, 3rd March Alnwick Playhouse www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk
Friday, 4th March Hexham Queens Hall www.queenshall.co.uk
Saturday, 5th March Northallerton The Forum www.forumnorthallerton.org.uk
Friday, 11th March Barton-upon-Humber The Ropewalk www.the-ropewalk.co.uk
Saturday, 12th March Leek Foxlowe Arts Centre www.foxloweartscentre.org.uk
Friday, 18th March Chesham The Elgiva elgiva.com/shows/simon-evans
Sunday, 20th March Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms www.wedgewood-rooms.co.uk
Thursday, 31st March Carmarthen Lyric Theatre www.theatrausirgar.co.uk
Friday, 1st April Cardigan Theatr Mwldan www.mwldan.co.uk
Saturday, 23rd April Workington Carnegie Theatre carnegietheatre.co.uk
Friday, 29th April Barnsley The Lamproom Theatre www.barnsleylamproom.com
Saturday, 30th April Loughborough Town Hall www.loughboroughtownhall.co.uk
More information: www.simonevanscomedianetc.com