Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera: delightful madcap entertainment
- Credit: Mark Douet
Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera)
The cream of Islington’s Intelligentsia laughed, clapped and sang along to Harry Hill and Steve Brown’s delightful madcap satire about our messianic ex PM.
Billed as a 'rock opera,' it's so much more, referencing across its two hours all sorts of musical influences, from Flanagan and Allen’s soft-shoe-shuffle to extravagant Broadway-inspired dance numbers.
Tony! (“Never Anthony!”) kicks off with a death bed scene. Our hero feels the need to unburden and so we get his life story including an hilarious birth tableau that shamelessly borrows puppet-craft from Hill’s 90s TV show.
At Oxford he introduces himself to Brown (“I’m a pretty straight sort of guy”), is given a guitar and forms Ugly Rumours. In Lincolns Inn, he meets Scouser Cherie Booth (Holly Sumpton who, ingeniously, turns prop failures into laughs). She asks him if he votes Labour – “I’ve never thought about it. Why?”.
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An array of characters are played by an uber-talented cast of nine: Madison Swan’s Lady Di is hysterical; Howard Samuels as Mandelson is smoothly manipulative (declaring “We must shape the grief” after Di's death).
Gary Trainor’s prudent Presbyterian Gordon Brown is spot on. I wondered why Alastair Campbell merited only a walk on part when That Dossier needed sexing up – an embarrassment of riches? Charlie Baker is full of energy, ad libs, and perfect timing - capturing Blair's self-absorption, self-belief, and self-delusion.
And do watch out for Saddam Hussein as Groucho Marx. The play does have its near-the-knuckle barbs and will offend some. Perhaps trying to reframe his legacy, Tony reminds us we are complicit in his premiership. Pointing accusingly at the audience, he says after the million-strong anti-war march nearly ten million of us voted for him at the next election.
Under Peter Rowe's inspired direction, this could make a transfer up west but don't miss its run in Finsbury Park.
To paraphrase the man himself this is Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment.
Tony! Runs at Park Theatre Finsbury Park until July 9. https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/tony-the-tony-blair-rock-opera