Writer and Presenter: Gyles Brandreth
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
Until recently, when he and two other members of his family shared all the roles in a production of no less than Hamlet in London, few would have associated the name of Gyles Brandreth with the art form of theatre. The former doyen of Countdown’s Dictionary Corner and, for five years, Conservative Member of Parliament for Chester has, of course, done many things in media, but theatre? Anyway, here he is with an hour-long collection of anecdotes supposedly about that very subject.
Brandreth begins with a rendition of Noél Coward’s Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage Mrs Worthington which suggests that he may not be considering a move into musicals. What follows prompts the question as to whether “Break a Leg” in the show’s title could be more aptly replaced by “Drop a Name” as Brandreth claims (and there is no reason to doubt him) to have met an extraordinary number of thespians, past and present. Entertaining Sir John Gielgud at the House of Commons on the great actor’s 90th Birthday, he expressed pleasure that he chose to be there and received the response: “well all my friends are dead”.
Of the jolly anecdotes in the hour, around half actually relate to theatre, including mentions of Larry, Sybil, Ralph, Judi and Maggie. The show concludes with I Remember it Well, touchingly duetted with the recorded voice of Dame June Whitfield, a lady primarily associated with television/radio and not theatre. Many of the stories may have been told before, but the chief attraction is Brandreth himself who takes to this form of entertainment like a duck to water. His quick wit, timing and connection with the audience are the equal of a top comedian. Maybe this Jack of all trades missed his true vocation.
Runs until 26 August 2018 | Image: Contributed