The New Statesman: Episode 2006—the Blair B'stard Project
Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Following the original portrayal of a young, ruthless and sleazy Tory politician in four enormously successful television series, Rik Mayall has now brought his character to ghastly life on stage. Alan B'stard has now crossed the floor and joined the caring New Labour party, but his evangelically angelic smile (frighteningly similar to that of our present leader) does nothing to hide the fact that sleaze, corruption and dirty tricks are as prevalent on the left as on the right, shared almost equally between the two. There's socialism for you!
This has the potential to be a superbly comical and witty satire on political life, pointing out all the absurdities and foibles of those in power, and the script is topical and must be updated almost daily to keep up with current events and if only Rik Mayall was not so constantly obsessed with his dick we would all get along a lot better! A more laid-back, less frenetic delivery would make the situation so much funnier than all the arm waving, pelvic thrusts and two fingered gestures that appear to be a compulsion with the man. I believe he was criticised at the beginning of the tour for a slow delivery well now, towards the end of the run, his speech has become rather incoherently fast. You can't please everyone!
The writers are totally disillusioned with the Blair government (who isnt?) and the jibes come thick and fast, some of the taunts being a bit cruel: Cherie Blair is in a spa having a free make-over. I don't know how it went she's still there! The others who come in for disparagement are Prescott (of course), Straw, Bush and Blunkett well, they put their heads up above the parapet, and they're in line to be shot down, but how the producers have avoided being sued I dont know! No one is safe even Prince Philip gets a little dig.
The characters are one-dimensional caricatures and nothing wrong with that in a show lampooning our public figures. There is the old labour man Frank (Clive Hayward) from the despised north, putting up with his abusive treatment from B'stard in case his share dealing is exposed, the young sharp-suited idealistic Flora (Helen Baker), Blair's new aide who goes gooey at the sound of his voice on the phone. Marsha Fitzalan easily slips into her role (reprised from the TV series) as B'stard's upmarket wife seeking an exorbitant divorce settlement and annoyed at the fox hunting ban - Now Ive nothing to kill. An Arab terrorist also makes and appearance as Mr Habibi (Kamaal Hussain) wanting to know why B'stard has not had the WMDs hidden in Iraq as arranged, and the BBC comes in for some mockery too an old score to settle there!
The plot is deliberately ridiculous, involving Tony Blair arranging his own kidnap to boost his popularity ratings, and Condolezza Rice arriving by helicopter but with no need to see the prime minister - We e-mail him his instructions. All takes place in Bob Bailey's amazingly versatile and elegant Cabinet Office set.
This is really the Rik Mayall Show and the audience were there to enjoy his antics, to laugh at the lampooning of our politicians, and to be delightedly horrified at some of the very pertinent mockery. Enjoy they did, especially Mayall's ad-libs and asides to the audience. Brilliant was one overheard verdict. Not to my taste, but as mentioned previously you cant please them all!
Touring to Milton Keynes
Reviewer: Sheila Connor