Audience withNorth WestReview

An Afternoon with Brian Blessed – The Lowry, Salford.

Reviewer: Sam Lowe

“Can you hear me?” Brian Blessed asks the loyal audience. The whole of Salford can. If he’s not known for his larger than life personality, he’s renowned for his tremendous, reverberating, operatic, and sonorous voice. It is simply iconic.

Blessed has had a long and successful career as an actor, writer, presenter, and comedian. This afternoon’s talk is autobiographical in approach and style. Blessed explores different chapters of his life and there is a plethora of inexhaustible and hilarious anecdotes. He’s the kind of person you want as a guest at your dinner party. The show certainly feels intimate despite taking place in the large Lyric Theatre, probably because of Blessed’s welcoming attitude and the fact that the house lights are up the entire time.

What can you say about him? Blessed’s extensive performance experience is evident in the delivery of this talk. His charisma, charm, presence, eccentricity, cheek, bold humour, and gregarious nature fused together with a voice varying in volume, pitch, colour, texture, and emotion make for a magnetic storyteller. Blessed is 82 years old. Yet, he brings so much dynamism to the stage. There is a natural, honed musicality to his voice. Gestural in his speaking, he knows how to command the room. The audience laugh, react, or turn silent in the right moments.

There is a structure to the talk: mainly following through his life events in chronological order. However, the talk does tend to get rather sidetracked in places. Much of it is improvised, which effectively makes it feel fresh and alive, although it’s at the expense of some stories feeling somewhat drawn out. On the whole though, the talk is engaging, humorous, and inspirational with moments of heartfelt wisdom for the audience to take away with them. It’s like he’s always performing a Shakespeare soliloquy. When Blessed finally does perform a couple of extracts from Shakespeare’s plays, it is dumbfounding.

He goes on about how strangers always ask him to say: “Gordon’s alive!” A famous line from the film, Flash Gordon. Blessed conveys his adventures of travelling to the North Pole and climbing up Mount Everest – also announcing future plans of flying up into space. He reminisces about his upbringing and the actors he looked up to such as: Gielgud, Olivier, and O’Toole. Impressions, such as the one of the Queen, go down really well with the audience. Different generations of people know him for different projects he has worked on. Films and TV include: Star Wars, Robin Hood – Price of Thieves, Blackadder, Peppa Pig, and Tarzan. Witnessing him recreate flashes from his filmography is delightful.

In conclusion, this event is absolutely ideal for fans of the man himself. Blessed is a living legend of theatre and film, who makes himself very clear when he exclaims: “We all have something special to offer to this world.” The acting advice from Peter O’Toole, Blessed passes on to us, is motivational too: working from fragility rather than your strengths. You can apply that advice to a number of contexts. Even if you’re not aware of him as a celebrity, you can’t help but fall in love with his character at first sight. His voice is everywhere and there is no end to his vocal diversity.

Reviewed on: 7 April 2019 | Image: Contributed

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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