Rory Bremner And Friends - Scarborough Spa Theatre, May 7; Hull Truck Theatre, May 8; Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, May 28 (From York Press)
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Rory Bremner And Friends - Scarborough Spa Theatre, May 7; Hull Truck Theatre, May 8; Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, May 28
THE last time satirical impressionist and political pundit Rory Bremner passed this way, he was on board his Election Battle Bus.
The date was April 15 2010; the bus stop, Harrogate Theatre. “Two years ago we were waiting for a government to be elected… and we’re still waiting,” says Rory, who is up north once more this month with his latest live show, Rory Bremner And Friends.
“The wheels have come off the Battle Bus and we’ve picked up a couple of stragglers, my old friends comedian Hattie Hayridge and jazz singer Ian Shaw.”
The show will combine stand-up comedy and live music, with Rory contributing topical comments, updated on the road, about the Coalition government, current affairs and sport, complemented by a romp through some favourites from his repertoire of 100 voices.
“It’s more of a variety show,” says Rory, appraising a show that also visits Scarborough Spa Theatre on Monday at 7.30pm, Hull Truck Theatre on Tuesday at 7.45pm and Leeds City Varieties Music Hall on May 28 at 8pm.
“I’ve got past doing two-hour shows on my own or stadium shows. I prefer to do one-hour sets now. I’m happy doing that.
“When you think about it, there are fewer characters now, which is something I’ve been going on about for a while – though there are still some old favourites in there like John Prescott and David Blunkett, Kenneth Clarke and William Hague. But the thought of doing Andrew Lansley, Michael Gove and George Osborne; it would be like showing a dog a card trick.”
Amid the dearth of new characters in Westminster, Rory welcomes the comeback of George “Bradford’s Spring” Galloway. “It’s a dagger blow to the establishment,” he says.
Nevertheless, the days of political personalities appear to be drifting away. “When someone was described as ‘inimitable’, as they used to be, the one thing they would be was imitable!
“Now, personality in politics is a liability, which is a shame, because if someone is flamboyant, they’re not seen as serious, so politicians like to play it safer.”
Tony Blair took the ideology out of politics, the politics out of politics, suggests Rory. “Look at when Alan Johnson was made Shadow Chancellor, it didn’t last for long. Suddenly you had Alan Johnson saying ‘I’m not an expert on finance; I don’t know much about economics’, and you thought, ‘Well, this could be interesting’, whereas in came Ed Balls, who has an economics degree.”
Rory bemoans the lack of alternative thinking to orthodox opinion that there is no other way to get through the next five years of economic hardship and cutbacks.
“‘Miliband’ sounds like something you can’t get on the radio in some parts of the country,” he goes on to joke.
As ever, there is ammunition aplenty to satirise on the political landscape. “The challenge is keeping up with it,” says Rory. “It’s that situation where Boris is Lord Mayor of London, Tony Blair is a peace envoy, so at the moment reality keeps running ahead of us, and because the reality is so absurd, with all that stuff about the Chancellor and Cornish pasties, it’s like a cartoon by James Gillray, the late 18th century political cartoonist.”
In his new show, satire shares the spotlight with jazz.
“I often think that jazz and satire go hand in hand, as they did in the Sixties in That Was The Week That Was, and I can remember the Cambridge Footlights having a house band,” says Rory.
Hence the involvement of Ian Shaw who Rory met in their student days, at Kings College, London.
“I get to sing with Ian at the end each night, performing I Got You Under My Skin, as sung by Bruce Forsyth, Julian Clary, Bill Clinton and Ant & Dec,” says Rory.
Away from touring, he and his family divide their time between Wiltshire and the Scottish borders, where their restoration of a Georgian house between Kelso and Jedburgh is almost finished.
Work-wise, with no rest for the witty, Rory’s new series of Tonight will be running on BBC Radio 4 from this month, recorded each Wednesday with Andy Zaltzman, Nick Doody and Kate O’Sullivan for Thursday and Sunday night broadcasts.
“What I like about it is that it’s a good, satirical, political, cutting-edge series for Radio 4, which is the home of comedy,” he says, preferring that medium for his humour than the vogue for appearing in guest spots on Michael McIntyre or Kevin Bridges’s shows.
“I’m a bit reluctant to do those shows. I just don’t feel at home on that big a stage. It’s a young person’s stage.”
Instead, at 51, his television work now takes him out of his comedy zone into documentaries. “Funnily enough, I’m getting into what I call ‘the Palin years’. I’m doing Rory Bremner’s Great Views Of Britain for ITV, looking at some of the great places in Britain,” he says.
• Tickets for Rory Bremner And Friends can be booked on 01723 357869 or scarboroughspa.co.uk; 01482 323638 or hulltruck.co.uk; 0113 243 0808 or cityvarieties.co.uk
You can follow Rory on twitter @rorybremner