Tony Blair without the flair
“Boys don’t make passes at girls from lower middle classes!”
It doesn’t strike me as up to the minute political satire for a world premiere, rock opera based on Tony Blair, Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, when there is so much more topical material available. But with Harry Hill’s madcap humour in collaboration with composer and lyricist Steve Brown, here it is. Their last collaboration based on the X Factor I Can’t Sing, which I didn’t dislike, lost Simon Cowell £4 million but this is a much less expensive production.
With a full cast in navy suits and red ties it starts with Blair on his death bed with Mandy, Peter Mandelson (Howard Samuels) commentating as we get Anthony Charles Lynton Blair’s life story from birth forward. The birth is an adult head on a pink stuffed baby body accompanied by the phrase, “He shall walk on water.”
At Oxford he argues with Gordon Brown (Gary Trainor) over who takes the top bunk bed, except that while Blair went to Oxford, Brown went to Edinburgh. Most of Blair’s time at Oxford seems to be taken up by his desire to be a rock musician modelling himself on “Mick Jaggers”. He meets Cherie Booth in London after graduating as he trains as a barrister. We fast forward through Labour Party luminaries and at the mention of Margaret Thatcher, all deliver a synchronised spit.
Characterisation is mostly a change of wig not really creating a believable likeness. Cherie is played by Holly Sumpton, but I do wish Sumpton had captured some of Cherie’s physical awkwardness as did the late, great Helen McCrory in the film of The Queen. Lady Diana is Madison Swan with hugely pleading eyes. Robin Cook is Kaye Brown with a ginger beard.
Post 9/11, policy becomes “Kill the Infidel” as international politics involves Saddam Hussein (Gary Trainor) and Osama bin Laden (Rosie Strobel). Tony’s prayer is, “Help me oh Lord to find some weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”
The Tony Blair Rock Opera doesn’t explain how briefly a Trotskyite at Oxford, peace loving, wanna be rock star becomes a multi-millionaire supporter of war.
It was all really too bland for me. The rock wasn’t heavy enough and the jokes have all been heard several times before and lack the outrageousness of Jerry Springer the Opera. At least it won’t offend the Christians as the Blairs’ Catholicism is acknowledged. This gets the children into better state schools but the show doesn’t mention Euan’s being additionally tutored by a teacher from the elite public school, Westminster, for University of Oxford entry. For the record Euan didn’t get into Oxford, despite tutoring and barrister chamber connections, but went to Bristol where Mummy bought two flats and last week it was announced that Euan is now worth £160 million.
TONY! The Tony Blair Rock Opera
Book by Harry Hill
Music and Lyrics by Steve Brown
Directed by Peter Rowe
Director: Peter Rowe
Designer: Libby Watson
Choreographer: Francesca Jaynes
Lighting Designer: Mark Dymock
Sound Designer: Andre T
Musical Director: Oli Jackson
Running Time: Two hours 10 minutes with an interval
Booking to 9th July 2022
The Park Theatre
London N4 3JP
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge
at the Park Theatre
on 9th June 2022