Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Gyles Brandreth’s varied and interesting life is laid bare in an hour of rapid fire anecdotes, piercing humour and full on engagement with the audience.
Gyles Brandreth is a writer, broadcaster and a former MP, junior minister and sometime Government Whip. Currently a reporter on BBC1’s The One Show and a regular on BBC Radio 4’s enduring panel game, Just a Minute, he is a man clearly on home ground with this year’s Fringe offering. Or is he?
Bursting onto a stage bare but for a solitary cup and saucer parked on a small table, he laments that his life should have come to this. That a man once of such standing, a Member of Parliament (until the people spoke), should now be forced to occupy the dead afternoon slot in the Pleasance Courtyard, filling the time until a bunch of lesbian marionettes arrive to provide the real entertainment, truly shows how far he has come on life’s downward escalator.
But, with an audience to keep awake, he rises to the challenge and over the next hour we gallop through his interesting and very varied career via a series of witty anecdotes woven around some of many the people he has encountered. No doubt some of the tales have grown a little taller over the years but here is a man who has plainly mixed with the great and the good from a very early age – and who is quite prepared to dish the dirt on them in the gentlest of manners but with just the occasional barb to keep the gossip columnists interested.
Stories involving literary, stage, screen and people from many other walks of life roll seamlessly together in a script that is brimming with energy, wonderful comic timing and some of the most acerbic put down lines you will hear in a long time. Naturally, his tour de force is reserved for those he chanced upon in his time as a Tory MP (which he accepts is not something that Scottish audiences will be terribly familiar with) and one-time minister. And with the public’s current opinion of politicians just about as low in the gutter as you can manage without actually falling through into the sewer below, who better to give a “no expense spared” expose of what life in Westminster is really like than a man who once trod those corridors of power.
Brandreth is a raconteur par excellence, a man at ease on the stage and comfortable working the audience into the stories he is telling. It helps if you have a passing knowledge of senior figures in the walk of life that he has trodden and an interest in contemporary politics will also prove useful in order to appreciate the subtler side of his wit but an hour was still too short for a man of his story telling ability.
But given that he spares no-one (not even our noble monarch) from his rapier like wit and that one of his illustrious forebears was the last man to be beheaded for treason in the UK, you’d best get along to this show before Her Majesty finds out what is going on and wields a rapier of the more literal kind.