Gyles Brandreth : Word Power!

Bound and Gagged Comedy

Pleasance Courtyard

From 05 August 2015 to 30 August 2015

Rating: *****

Review by Robin Strapp

Gyles Brandreth is on tip top form. He tells the audience towards the end of his sparkling performance following a text message from his manager that he has overrun again and that he has, “become a cult”.

But as this is a show about word power, one has to be very careful about what one says as it can be misconstrued; the capacity audience quickly got the message.

His Fringe show Gyles Brandreth: Word Power! is tremendous fun; who else could start his show in Edinburgh by saying, “a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the bagpipes but doesn’t”.

It’s a performance filled with witty stories, wonderful anecdotes and a tirade about the topsy turvy use of language by people today.

He knows the demographic of his audience well, congratulating those of “a certain” age who remembered to turn up and also remember where their tickets were. The audience loved it.

He explains that he is comfortable about his age and may well be the new face for Stannah stair lifts, following that with a hilarious series of memory jokes as he talks about going up stairs only to forget why.

He states his belief that language is power, admiring the eloquence of oratory and the importance of posture and diction with vowels providing volume and consonants clarity, and then takes the audience through speech lessons all with a mantra of, “nipples leading” that has them standing up participating in this hilarious show.

His sense of comic timing is razor sharp and he recounts stories about politicians, actors and watching Foyles War only to discover he has seen the episode three quarters of the way through.

He celebrates the richness of the English language where Shakespeare 400 years ago used 26,000 words and created many new ones such as “excitement” in Hamlet. Now we have 500,000 words whilst the Germans only have 180,000—but “don’t tell Angela Merkel"—and the French have a mere 100,000.

There are some highly personal revelations about his father elicited by reading a letter from Dr Johnson to his mother. He urges us to actually write a letter if we have something that we need to say to a member of the family or a friend.

He suggests that in order to increase our brainpower by three to five years, we should learn a new word a day and a poem a week.

A moving, hilarious show that struck chords with his enthusiastic audience, Brandreth at his most vivacious best.