Sunday, September 07, 2008

"An Audience with... Brian Blessed" - September 2008

What an extraordinary evening. What an extraordinary man. Bounding on to the stage with the enthusiasm of a labrador puppy, for well over three hours Brian Blessed regaled the packed audience at the Citizens' Theatre with his incredible experiences. Acting, Everest, the Yeti, Mallory, opera and his involvement with the space programme are all covered with such passion that it's utterly compelling. Add in short moments of Shakespearean dialogue, poetry and a phenomenal closing performance of "O Sole Mio", and I have to say that in terms of pure enjoyment I don't think I've ever spent a better evening in the theatre.

While many of these 'celebrity' evenings are made up of generic jokes and anecdotes, everything here is Brian Blessed. But as well as the laughs (which are genuinely laugh out loud) there is a sense of how powerful he can be as a motivational speaker. At the end of the show he implored the audience to go and see Everest for themselves you get the feeling that some of them just might.

The main thread of the evening is his fascination with Mallory's expeditions and his own mountaineering achievements, but there is plenty of time to discuss his iconic role in "Flash Gordon", his lifelong friendship with Patrick Stewart, his time in "Cats" and his love for animals. He took questions in the second half, and although these frequently resulted in some tangential tale he always addressed the question in the end.

There's simply no let up and had the Citz staff not been giving the 'wind up' signals I think he may happily have carried on for another hour. There are few evenings at the theatre that can truly be described as unforgettable but this was one of them. And should Mr Blessed find himself in need of additional work to finance his adventuring and animal feed, taking this 'show' to one of the bigger venues at the Edinburgh Fringe would show some of the comedians what a real performance is about.

And we can only hope that the Citz made sufficient impact on him that he may one day consider returning in an acting role...