Raphael Wakefield @ Assembly George Square

An engaging arsenal of characters from Raphael Wakefield

Review by James McColl | 09 Aug 2019
  • Raphael Wakefield @ Assembly George Square

The rise and fall of noughties Gunners manager Arsène Wenger may not be what you thought you wanted to see, but that's because you haven't heard the story told by character comedian Raphael Wakefield. In his debut show, Wakefield charts the success of his Arsenal idol and explains what Wengerball, the apparent theology behind Wenger's managing style, might teach us all about life. 

Armed only with an (erm) arsenal of characters, Wakefield's pitch perfect impressions and quick-fire wit makes for an entertaining hour. The story is framed around Arsenal's latest manger and his son Josh, who despite wanting to be a cartoonist is being groomed for greatness and poised to take over the club in the near future. Fortunately, characterisations of the club's historic figures are funny whether you know them or not – and whether they’re real or fictional. Unlike other character comedians, Wakefield darts from one character to another with little time in-between. This all feeds the Wengerball narrative but comes at a price. There is little time spent with any one comedy creation, which means some leave little to no lasting impression. When he dwells for slightly longer, characters like Chelsea manager José Mourinho steal the show. 

Early on, Wakefield steps out of character to confess his dreams of performing and writing comedy. The clear message of the show – Should success come at the price of happiness, quality of life or quality of football? – is pushed hard at times but never enough to weaken the comedy. This can lead to some incongruity, but it is with good intentions on Wakefield's part. He crafts a story from a topic most would turn a blind eye to and enthrals us with his unique storytelling abilities and skilled impressions. Simply put, Wakefield makes us care.

Raphael Wakefield: Wengerball, Assembly George Square (Studio 4), until 26 Aug (not 13), 1.20pm, £9-11