Reviewer: Donna Kelly
Ever since Al Murray created The Pub Landlord back in 1994 at the Edinburgh Festival, the fictional publican has become known for his love of all things British. The bar-based-braveheart even ran against Nigel Farage for the parliamentary constituency of South Thanet last year as leader of the Free United Kingdom Party (FUKP), gaining an impressive 318 votes. Surprising then that in his latest tour, Murray fails to capitalise on Britain’s decision to leave the EU as much as one might expect.
Let’s Go Backwards Together sees Murray return to the stage to embark on his latest crusade to “re-Great Britain”. Based on a loose theme of taking the country back to the glory days of 1955 (but with power steering, ABS and plasma flat screen TVs), the comedian tackles everything from Europe, the NHS, the Middle East and immigration in his two-hour show.
As you’d expect from a character who has made his name mocking Europe, Brexit is a hot topic but instead of celebrating Britain’s independence, Murray oddly pulls away from the subject claiming to not to have voted in the EU referendum. Instead, he ridicules Britain’s abandonment of an institution that has brought us 71 years of peace just so we can tell Angela Merkel to “stick it” and the French to “f*ck off”. Even a fast-talking sketch which traces immigration back through the years turns into a long-winded rant which fails to deliver the laughs (or claps) it actually deserves.
The second act sees Murray move onto transgenderism, the Middle East and modern day flashing which for the most part entertains. But even here some of the jokes are a little woolly and repetitive and even his occasional songs – one about the Internet and another about going back to the past – don’t really add anything to the show.
That said, there are times when Murray’s comic genius shines and when it does, it’s worth staying for. A funny sketch about a plane crash routine in which the image of him “smeared on a mountainside, half man, half suitcase” is particularly funny. His backchat with the audience in which he dissects their jobs and names is also highly entertaining, demonstrating Murray’s quick wit and rapport.
There’s no doubt that Murray is a talented comedian but now that his rallying cry of “back off Brussels” has come true, his alter-ego seems to be stuck in no man’s land. Is it time to call last orders on The Pub Landlord or can he surprise us with a late night lock-in?
Reviewed on 16 October