Very funny, packed with tunes redolent of everything from Sullivan to Sondheim, with a terrific cast led by Charlie Baker giving the world his Tony, this would be satirical affair does at times seem a bit like flogging a dead horse. These are all yesterday’s men before us – and women. Who remembers Clare Short? John Prescott is a spent force somewhere in the Lords, as is she, and Tony no longer holds sway over his party as an elder statesman. As for devils incarnate Osama Bin Laden is pretty well for gotten and Saddam has been replaced by Vladimir.
The truth is Tony is one of those good ideas which would have been even better a dozen or more years ago, which is not to say that all who despise this one time hero of the nation will not have a laugh because the jokes are mostly very good, Baker, while not looking remotely like Blair, conjures up a permanently smiling innocent going for the easy option and sucking up to rock stars and Presidents who sounds like him and director Peter Rowe has drilled the cast to perfection. Baker is not the only one to deliver a stand out turn. Martin Johnston’s Kinnock is the Welsh windbag to perfection, Howard Samuels does a delicious Mandy, Gary Trainor’s Gordon Brown gets the Scottish puritan perfectly and Holly Sumpton’s Cherie is a force of nature before which all men quail.
And yet one still feels there are targets around now in politics more worthy of the bile and the humour than these spent forces who are mostly now in retirement with some enjoying remarkably wealth which everyone resents deeply.
It begins with Tony on his death bed, goes back to his birth – he really does pop out of the womb – and then youth when he wanted to be a rock star – the desire to meet Mick Jagger is a running joke – and into a political career where his rise seems due more to outside forces like Cherie than to any natural ability, while Gordon flounders in his wake, and so on to the moment when he embarks on a special relationship with George Bush. While some get roundly mocked, some do not – Alistair Campbell makes a fleeting appearance and one has a pretty good idea why – while throughout our hero remains ever optimistic that he will meet Mick and remain up their with all the very best people. The people’s princess is a high spot with Tony realising the world is now his oyster and what can possibly go wrong?
Well it did. Lots of laughs and jaunty tunes abound but that dead horse feeling does persist. One leaves on a high however because the final song turns out to be the best of the lot. As a poster parade of today’s leaders fills the stage everyone sings – “The whole wide world is run by ass holes.” It deserves to top the charts and join Always Look on the Bright Side as a much loved song of the people.
Tony Blair: Charlie Baker.
Robin Cook: Kaye Brown.
Ensemble: Massa Harris.
Neil Kinnock: Martin Johnston.
Peter Mandelson: Howard Samuels.
John Prescott: Rosie Strobel.
Cherie Blair: Holly Sumpton.
Princess Diana: Madison Swan.
Gordon Brown: Gary Trainor.
Director: Peter Rowe.
Set & Costumes: Libby Watson.
Musical Director: Oli Jackson.
Lighting Designer: Mark Dymock.
Sound Designer: Andre T.
Choreographer: Francesca Jaynes.
Production Photograohy: Mark Douet.