They call it “politics”, though after recent headlines revealing a daily diet of incompetence Whitehall farce is probably a more appropriate way of describing the mad-cap merry-go-round that Tony Blair’s New Labour project seems to have spun for itself. John Prescott’s mistress might have found sex during office hours easy to swallow, but the ridiculous reality of a minister caught with his trousers down is surely so farcical that any attempt to satirise it is bound have about as much comic bite as a genteel game of croquet at Dorneywood.
Step forward scruple-free Alan B’Stard MP – the one-man weapon of mass derision. The suave but infamously corrupt political big-hitter from Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran’s outrageous 1980s television series The New Statesman is back in an equally outrageous stage version.
He’s still the devil in a pinstripe suit, except that these days he’s grown old disgracefully, having morphed from rabid Tory sleaze-bag to rancid Blairite monster. Unfit for purpose, except for making loads of money or getting off on internet porn, the ever-randy Alan Beresford B’Stard has installed himself at Number 9 Downing Street like an opportunistic virus, where he’s re-fashioned New Labour in his own sneering image (“ID cards for the poor, credit cards for the rich” is his election slogan), kidnapped Tony Blair to increase his poll ratings and exporting WMD to Iraq, while setting up an international oil scam in league with Condoleeza Rice.
Evidently aiming to kick New Labour in the stalls in the same way that their original TV version cruelly derided the scandal-ridden John Major years, Marks and Gran could perhaps do with a slightly more adventurous theatrical plot on which to hang B’Stard’s merciless lampooning of today’s political class. But whether screaming a lexicon of C-words down the phone at the Queen, stalking Blair’s sexy new political assistant (Helen Baker) or turning his Old Labour dogsbody (Clive Hayward) into a gibbering wreck, Rik Mayall’s Alan B’Stard is surely one of the truly great stage comedy grotesques.
There’s strong support from Marsha Fitzalan, reprising her role in the TV series as Alan’s sham wife with lesbonic tendencies - but with a libido the size of Big Ben and those ever-open flies, Myall never stops grabbing the zeitgeist by the short and curlies. It’s an hilarious, wince-making performance that almost reaches Shakespearean proportions, especially when B’Stard, the uncrowned king of leer, begins to display all the signs of incurable penile dementia. By the end, the audience at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre was cheering him to the rafters, though it felt as if they really were booing “politics”.
- Roger Foss (reviewed at The Churchill Theatre, Bromley)