WHEN BLAIR HAD BUSH AND BUNGA Pleasance One, Edinburgh

IN WHICH I AM EASILY AMUSED BY QUITE OLD JOKES. AND CLIVE MANTLE.

We are all urged by manically cheerful Bajan waitresses to sing “`We’re all going on a Summer Holiday” before the show. It’s winter 2001, Tony Blair’s in his second-term pre-Iraq heaven enjoying a freebie by Sir Cliff Richard’s guitar-shaped Barbados pool with Cherie, Carole, Carole’s boyfriend, and a sour-faced Alistair Campbell. Cherie has farmed out the kids to Sandy Lane courtesy of Michael Winner, and invited her fellow-Catholic rich mate Silvio Berlusconi. Tony and Alistair want them out of the way because of a top secret guest: POTUS himself, George W.Bush, whose helicopter may darken the sky any minute…
Had to see this: if you want the complete theatrecat-friendly sampler-set of Edfringe theatre you need at least one big starry one, a couple of tiny hopeful ones nobody much else will bother with, some edgy Traverse stuff and one like this: politically scurrilous, real-name, sue-me-if-you-dare stuff. Its a first play by the TV director Patrick Ryecart, and though woefully dated provides some good laughs. Despising the popinjay Blair will never entirely date, will it?

And Christopher Staines is a perfect Blair: the light-tenor voice , the hairline , the theatrical gestures and intermittent flicks of panic behind the eyes. He has borrowed Cliff’s guitar to sing ,rather badly, a number called Kosovo Dreams because Carole Caplin’s Aussie boyfriend (Douglas Hansell in tight budgie-smugglers) is encouraging him to write a musical about himself . His story would “fit like a bum in a bucket!”. Alistair is taking calls from Max Clifford about Robin Cook’s mistress (dated? archaeological!). Carole is blessing stones for some kumbaya-trocious tantric ritual with Cherie. Who is scoring free stuff at the Sandy Lane boutique.
Tony’s ghastly entourage of blingy shallow greed has been lampooned before, and I did despair for a while. But what heats it up into proper farce is a surreal nightmare involving Berlusconi and Bush – surrealism which, should the victims protest, be a defence: it was all a dream, m’lud, brought on by heatstroke and Red Stripe beer. For Silvio turns up in leopardprint trunks, beaming through facelift bandages, and Cherie makes him ring Pope Ratzinger (“I appointed heem! Is Nazi but long ago!”). She gets Tony converted – in German, by speakerphone – while Silvio blows kisses and Cherie crows “Now we can get the kids into the Oratory!”.

There’s an apparent corpse under a towel, and Silvio doing Benny-Hill chases upstage, but the real star is Clive Mantle as George W.Bush. It’s a wonderful , fully realized comic turn , making the most of Ryecart’s best bits of writing – an airy dismissiveness of Yo-Blair, malapropisms, bland ignorances, diversions about Mitt Romney and the Morons and some apple-pie-picket-fence people in Wisconsin who told him for sure that that Saddam zapped the twin towers as revenge on his Daddy, who used to play cro-kay with Maggie , remember, she knocked his balls over the place, where was I? Who is this Al Kida, never heard of him, we’ll just go in, blam blam, who cares about this Coffee Kebab guy and the United Nothin’…”
His looming dominance over an ever weedier Blair reaches the point that when Bush says “Tony, you gotta deal with my dick” while fumbling (for his phone) in his shorts, the PM very nearly agrees to…but phew, he means Dick Cheney.  Crude but enjoyable. So I forgave it its datedness. And the local Bajans – especially David Webber as a Poirot-loving cop – are very good fun.
http://www.edfringe.com to 31 August
rating three     3 Meece Rating

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