Writer: Graham Mcpherson
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
From trashing the gents toilets at Middlesex Polytechnic to sneaking into the back window of the Groucho Club. From the front row of ‘the wrong end’ at Anfield to the roof of Buckingham Palace. In his second autobiographical show, Madness front-man Suggs, takes us on a jolly journey through his life as a pop star, and does it with a great deal of charm.
What A King Cnut, A Life In The Realm Of Madness is two solid hours of anecdotes, rolled out between songs and accompanied, interrupted and prompted by keyboardist Deano Mumford. Fame sits somewhat heavy on Suggs’s broad shoulders. There’s clearly many a time when he’d like to sit quietly (or even not so quietly) in the pub and not be recognised, but he knows that fame has also brought the great things in his life, and a strange kind of stability that’s saved him from going completely off the rails. His family obviously play a large part in that too and they feature heavily in his funny, poignant and ever-entertaining stories.
Ever the showman, Suggs opens the show on a throne recalling the story of King Cnut who he feels he has some affinity with, making the point that Cnut wasn’t as daft as history has painted him. He goes on to replay a long, delightful scene from Glastonbury where having drunk all night, invaded the stage during Primal Scream’s set, got covered in mud and lost a shoe, he sits on an oil drum – ‘the king of all he surveys’ – and thinks that life probably doesn’t get better than this. It’s this positive outlook on life that makes What A King Cnut a hugely entertaining show. Suggs stops short of coming across as a bit of a lush (although he clearly could be), avoids slagging off the music business (and he’d have his reasons) and proves why he’s managed to stay in the industry and hold on to his fans, for forty years.
The show is brilliantly structured with one story running into another, or a song, and some great call-backs to earlier stories, mostly involving Suggs upsetting Brian May. He moves seamlessly from show-biz tales to family stories, from the hilarious to the emotional, not a nostalgic look back at a life lived in the spotlight, but rather just another step in a long and successful career.
You don’t have to be a huge fan of the band to enjoy this entertaining show. It’s such an engaging mix of memories, especially when punctuated with paired down versions of My Girl, House of Fun and Our House. The fans will turn out in their droves though, and there’s plenty of venues in this long tour to catch a bit of everyone’s favourite nutty boy.
Reviewed on 13 February 2018 | Image: Contributed