If you’re on the lookout for subtlety and class, Harry Hill and Steve Brown’s Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera might be not for you. It begins – actually – with a bang and careens via a busy hour and a half of high-energy songs and skits.
The dedicated solid are completely satisfied to offer their viewers with caricatures, versus characters. John Prescott (Rosie Strobel) is portrayed as an expert northerner, Robin Cook (Sally Cheng) as a priapic ginger gnome, Cherie Blair (Tori Burgess) as a sharp-tongued Scouser – you get the image.
Although the occasional joke misfires (blind David Blunkett strolling right into a door body, actually?) and a number of the actors’ accents are as woeful because the intentionally dodgy wigs they whip on and off, it really works by itself phrases.
The music and the lyrics may not be that memorable, however the songs rhyme nicely. In the run as much as the 1992 election, for instance, Neil Kinnock (Martin Johnston) sings: “We’ve been ready within the valleys, I’ve been storming it at rallies.” And Princess Diana’s deadly accident is neatly, if reasonably bluntly, summed up as “the chauffeur was smashed, no marvel he crashed”.
And they cohere properly – even perhaps particularly – once they stray past the bounds of excellent style. Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein’s numbers (the latter performed through a Groucho Marx impression) are a working example.
The occasional cameos are notably nicely performed (Britpop’s Liam Gallagher was a favorite of mine), the impressively athletic choreography is fundamental however efficient and one or two of the set items work notably nicely. The momentous Granita deal (at which Brown was persuaded to present Blair a free run on the management within the wake of John Smith’s premature loss of life) is staged as a wrestling match full with ropes and glossy leotards. Believe it or not, this truly conveyed what was allegedly mentioned and agreed throughout that dinner fairly precisely.
The ‘Princess Diana story’: why everybody has their very own model
The present’s limitations
So far, so good(ish), then. But there are some downsides. The most blatant is that so as to get many of the rock opera’s jokes, you most likely needed to be there – “there” being the Nineteen Nineties and the early 2000s. Those underneath 50 may battle to understand a number of the political and cultural references, until they’ve performed or are doing a politics diploma that coated the New Labour years.
Having not solely lived via them however taught them, too, I had no bother. But that didn’t imply I had no issues with the present.
First and foremost, it fell into the entice of inferring that Blair (Jack Whittle) was pushed virtually solely by his love of the limelight. As a outcome, he’s portrayed as an amoral airhead all through – a puppet whose strings had been pulled by Peter Mandelson (Howard Samuels).
In actuality, I believe even Blair’s hardest critics wouldn’t deny that his extraordinary powers of communication rested not simply on his pure charisma however on a penetrating intelligence, too. Nor would they deny he was animated by a ardour to do what – by his personal lights anyway – was proper.
Whether that sense of ethical function (misguided or in any other case) abandoned Blair as soon as he left Downing Street and entered the shadowy world of high-paid, globetrotting consultancy is one other story. But it’s a narrative that the authors (who had been apparently decided to not write one thing too lengthy) cease wanting telling.
Other all too acquainted tropes are a lot in proof. Mandelson, who’s successfully the narrator of the present, is predictably portrayed – albeit with appreciable aplomb – as some form of vampire or Mephistopheles. And by the identical token, Cherie, though splendidly performed, is introduced (not for the primary nor, I believe, the final time) as Lady Macbeth.
Meanwhile, Gordon Brown comes over (very amusingly, so far as the viewers had been involved) as a stereotypical indignant Scotsman. Alastair Campbell, for good or in poor health, solely will get a quick walk-on half, approaching, full with kilt and bagpipes, after the ghost of Princess Diana has – bear with me – persuaded Blair to intercourse up the “dodgy file”.
My important gripe, nevertheless, was with the supposedly showstopping final quantity. Blair, not unreasonably, reminds the viewers that 9.5 million of us voted him in for a 3rd time period, however his determination to go to struggle in Iraq. The music that follows declares that “The complete extensive world is led by assholes”, accompanied by footage of a bunch of strongmen leaders from world wide.
To equate the UK’s prime minister, nevertheless toddler might consider him, with the likes of Kim Jong Un, Bashar al-Assad and Putin appears, to me a minimum of, a class error. And, even if you happen to disagree, the underlying message merely serves up extra of the populist tackle politics that, frankly, we might most likely do with reasonably much less of today.
That mentioned, if you happen to occur to be in Liverpool for the Labour Party convention subsequent week, don’t miss the possibility to go see it on the metropolis’s Playhouse. You may not find it irresistible, however there’s no means it received’t go away you laughing.
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Tim Bale doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.