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The Confessions of Gordon Brown (Ambassadors Theatre, West End)

Kevin Toolis' biographical study of the former PM transfers to the West End

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Ian Grieve as Gordon Brown

It is more than four years since the end of Gordon Brown's tenure as Prime Minister and we - in 'Southland' at least - have not heard or thought about him a great deal since. We have been busy, after all. Yet still, here we are at 5.45am in his office on the cusp of the 2010 election. Gracelessly, he bashes away at his keyboard and barks at his absent staff, and we wonder what more there is to know about 'the leader'.

An exploration of a major political figure should seek to offer a fresh glimpse of their soul, but The Confessions of Gordon Brown proceeds without significant revelation, melodrama or peak. It also remains stubbornly within the political domain. Sure, his pomposity is ridiculed and his flaws skewered, but the man portrayed on stage is the man that we have long been told existed behind the scenes. Brown's awkward public persona is replaced by intimacy and candour, but the story feels overly familiar and the tone never really undulates - it is entertaining, but slightly predictable.

That said, writer/director Kevin Toolis offers an amusing reflection on a political career. Ian Grieve seems more youthful than his subject, but is convincing and absorbing for the most part. His mimicry of Brown's contemporaries - in character - is a highlight. There is also an admirable level of modesty and affection in Toolis' piece, but as a consequence, the energy of the play never reaches great heights - it is shackled by both its subject matter and its context.

The Confessions of Gordon Brown is booking at the Ambassadors Theatre until 30 July 2014