At a press conference held (appropriately) in Westminster today, actor Rik Mayall – in character as sleazy politician Alan B’Stard to promote the 15-date UK tour of the premiere screen-to-stage adaptation of political satire The New Statesman (See News, 28 Feb 2006) – warned “we are in an age of global warming, and very soon 75 percent of British theatres will be under water. So this is your last chance to see me, the greatest actor in the world, in the greatest play in the world.”

Mayall (pictured at today’s launch) will recreate his incarnation as depraved and selfish politician Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman – Episode 2006: The Blair B’stard Project, adapted from TV series The New Statesman, which was a screen hit for four series from 1987 to 1992. The tour opens on 19 April 2006 at the Theatre Royal, Brighton before continuing to 14 other venues on a three-month tour.

The series’ writers, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (whose other TV writing credits include Shine on Harvey Moon, Relative Strangers, Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart, Starting Out and Love Hurts), have updated the satirical comedy for the stage. Speaking today, they said that, having become disillusioned with the government after Tony Blair declared war on Iraq, they decided the time was right to resurrect Alan B’Stard.

According to Marks: “The great thing about Alan is that he is a character who can grow, unlike most comedy characters that are trapped in time. And on stage, you can make it much more current, as opposed to writing something that’s going to be broadcast in several months.

“Alan hasn’t had to change at all to become New Labour rather than Tory, as the New Labour party (which Marks is a member of) became Conservative in 1997… I really believe that Tony Blair actually based his whole persona on Alan B’Stard after watching it on television when it was about the Tory party. The only difference is Alan covers his back and has far more escape routes. Tony probably has one and he has given the key to someone like Prescott, who has either lost it or eaten it. And it all turns out to be true. No matter how bizarre the situations are we come up with, it always turns out they are actually happening – like years ago we had a scene banned about a member of the government selling weapons to Saddam Hussein…”

Gran said: “It’s very difficult to say whether satire actually changes anything in the real world. But if we can put some people off their muesli, that will be a good thing.” The writers will update the show each week with small scene insertions to keep it as current as possible.

In the new New Statesman, B’Stard will be seen struggling for survival in Blair’s New Labour cabinet. Will he find the weapons of mass destruction? Why is Condoleezza Rice in and out of Alan’s back door? How did B’Stard get into the Labour party in the first place?

Mayall - whose credits include Bottom, Blackadder, The Young Ones, The Comic Strip Presents… and All About George on television and Waiting for Godot, The Common Pursuit, Present Laughter and The Government Inspector on stage – said today: “I love playing the part of Alan because he is so bad, he is so selfish and he’s evil. I’ve always been attracted to playing baddies. I think, as I get older, Alan will just become more selfish and scheming. He’s somewhere between being a tw*t and actually being a complete bastard. You have to ridicule the most ridiculous elements of his character for the humour and really maximise the evil at the same time.”

He added the other reason he wanted to be involved with the show is that: “There is a lot of sex in it. How else was I ever going to get to have sex with Condoleezza Rice? We have seen a lot of actresses for the part, including Halle Berry – she didn’t get it.”

Following Brighton, The New Statesman will visit Wimbledon, Bristol, Oxford, York, Stoke on Trent, Bromley, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Reading, Plymouth, Woking and Milton Keynes, where the tour concludes on 29 July 2006. The stage production is directed by Jennie Darnell (US and Them and The Dead Eye Boy at Hampstead Theatre) and produced by Howard Panter for the Ambassador Theatre Group and David Ian for Live Nation.

- by Caroline Ansdell


Mayall with co-star Marsha Fitzalan