Politics. A hot topic, but perhaps not a popular one, especially at the moment but let’s take a step away from the current political situation and instead look at the past. After all, they do say that hindsight is a fine thing, and even in politics, time changes things and can even open the door for comedy, or to be more precise, satire.
Penned by Harry Hill, with music by Steve Brown, Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera rips up the rule book, recounting the early life and political career of the labour leader, from his long hair hippy days at Oxford University to wartime leader. It’s big, bold, loud and lairy, crammed with a naughty ‘out there’ sense of humour designed to both shock and entertain.
From the classic ‘I Want’ song that most musicals have ‘Be Somebody’ to numbers about Blair’s famous ‘People’s Princess’ speech after the death of Princess Diana and a finale that proudly proclaims that ‘The Whole World is Run by Arseholes’, this isn’t a show for those easily offended. But for those who can find the funny in the naughty, laugh at things that weren’t funny at the time and delight in the ridiculous, then you’ll love this. And the songs are earworms that you’ll be humming for quite some time afterwards.
In a star turn, the title role of Tony Blair is played here by Jack Whittle. No stranger to performing comedy, having previously starred in such productions as Mischief’s ‘The Comedy About A Bank Robbery’ and ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’, Whittle has a natural flair for making people laugh. He don’s Blair’s trademark grin for the vast majority of the show, (in this instance, a 90-minute no interval Fringe version), paired with a wide-eyed look that gives his Blair a childish air. This production allows Whittle to showcase his triple threat skill, impressing greatly with his vocals, his slick polished dancing, and his ability to embody the caricatured larger than life character of Tony Blair. Hardly off the stage for the entire running time, his seemingly endless energy earns rapturous applause.
The cast play multiple characters throughout; various different politicians make an appearance alongside Cherie Blair (played by Tori Burgess) and even Princess Diana (Emma Jay Thomas). There are laugh out loud performances by Howard Samuels as Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell and Dick Cheney whilst Phil Sealey’s ‘when is it my turn’ Gordan Brown delights, constantly trying to win back what he thinks he is owed by Blair. Burgess’ Cherie is sweet with an air of power as she bounces off the childish Blair. The ensemble is slick, changing characters in an instant and keeping the action moving along at a wonderful pace. They move around Blair, telling his story punchline after punchline, cleverly creating the idea that Blair believed that the world revolved around him, although we often see other characters pulling the puppet strings.
The music of this production is fun, funny, and fabulous, oozing with energy, silliness, and style. The onstage band provide an extra punch and there is a clear sense that the cast are loving it. This show is full of laughter, and yes, it’s out there, it’s naughty and it picks apart the ups and downs of a famous political career in order to make a constant joke of it, but it’s brilliant.
Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera is satire to the extreme, and whilst that may not be to everyone’s taste, life would be pretty boring if we all liked the same things.
You still have a few weeks left to catch this laugh out loud comedy out on tour, with tickets available here https://tonyblairrockopera.co.uk
Just watch out for flying carrot!