Friday, August 01, 2008

"Tony Of Arabia" - Edinburgh Fringe 2008

Following last year's hit with Tony! The Blair Musical, White Rose Theatre are back with a sequel by Chris Bush and Ian McLuskey, reuniting Tony with all his old friends and introducing some new ones too.

James Duckworth as Tony Blair is simply remarkable. Any small doubts about the vocals are far outweighed by his impressive acting performance here, and he manages to make Blair much more sympathetic than I thought possible. But while his performance is reason enough to see the show, there is a lot more to it. Ellie Cox provides impressive vocals as Cherie, Ed Duncan Smith's David Cameron is the comic highlight but Gavin Whitworth's George W Bush and Jethro Compton's Peter Mandelson provide plenty of laughs too.

And then we have Michael Slater as Gordon Brown. It's a perfectly fine performance, but while other shows suffer financially, the credit crunch may bite this show in an altogether different fashion. When it was first put together (presumably months ago) it will have seemed perfectly reasonable to have Gordon Brown played fairly straight - perhaps a little out of his depth but trying his best. Problem is, I get the feeling that the mood has changed and I'm not so sure people will easily accept such a charitable portrayal. In fact given a little bit of encouragement I think large sections of the audience would happily see him cast as the villain of the piece, but maybe that's being kept for next year.

The musical numbers are certainly enjoyable and benefit from the excellent on stage band, but they do largely fall into the category of instantly forgettable. But then, the attraction here (for me at least) isn't the music - it's the satire. And here the show really delivers, biting hard at the expense of all those featured.

Tony of Arabia runs at the Pleasancedome on various dates until the 25th August at 5.30pm. We saw the show on 31st and received permission from the company to comment on a performance so early in the run.
Image used with permission