mon 14/06/2021

Al Murray as the Pub Landlord, Embassy Theatre Skegness review - comic pulls his punches | reviews, news & interviews

Al Murray as the Pub Landlord, Embassy Theatre Skegness review - comic pulls his punches

Al Murray as the Pub Landlord, Embassy Theatre Skegness review - comic pulls his punches

Ageing character has little new to say on Brexit

Al Murray as the Pub Landlord: fantastically rude to paying customersPete Dadds

Al Murray's Pub Landlord character has been around since the mid-1990s. As such, it's a wonder that Murray has managed to reinvent the embittered, xenophobic loudmouth so many times, but he has – and the EU referendum in 2016 should have, you may have thought, given the character new life or killed him off altogether.

What has happened, though, as Murray's latest show Landlord of Hope and Glory proves, is that the Pub Landlord has entered a state of stasis. Three years on from that seismic vote and after the UK was supposed to have left the EU, Murray has a dilemma. He could go with the head-banging triumphalism that the Pub Landlord (a natural Brexit voter) might now be indulging in, with all its comedic possibilities; or Murray – whom one presumes voted Remain – would lose that proportion of his audience who see no irony in his comedy if he said, “See, I told you so.” So we are left with a show that doesn't take the Pub Landlord's narrative any further.

Despite that, much of it is really good comedy, even if it relies too heavily on audience interaction. Most of the first half of this two-hour show is taken up with the Pub Landlord asking the audience their names, where they are from and what they do for for a living. Some of it is comedy gold, and shows just how nimble Murray's mind is, such as when he ingeniously connects a crop sprayer with a plumber and a manager of a sewage treatment works.

But the shtick is following a well trodden path, as Murray is fantastically rude to people who have paid to be here; some have “real” jobs, such as nurse or lorry driver, but we are invited to boo when someone admits to being an estate agent. Yet when one woman offers that she is a child protection officer in Rotherham, Murray offers a mild reproof and then says: “I'm not going there.” A braver comic would.

And while depriving another woman in the front row of her pint of lager – “You know the rules: white wine or fruit-based drink for the ladies” – is still funny after all these years (will they never learn?), other interactions are now too loaded to be funny, such as sending a bloke to the bar so the Pub Landlord can perve over his wife. The character may not change, but the world he lives in does.

The second half is stronger, as Murray teases us into believing that the Pub Landlord is going to offer a solution to the “shit show” of Brexit, in part of a brilliant extended metaphor involving Diarrhoea Rapids, Turd Falls and lost paddles. “I'm here to explain what the fuck is going on,” he says, but doesn't, as that would mean coming down on one side of the argument – although due respect to Murray for playing a venue in Lincolnshire, heart of Brexit country, and not riding on an easy wave of anti-EU sentiment.

Instead the Pub Landlord offers a few other insights; why Theresa May is a feminist icon, how the EU has failed because it has maintained the peace in Europe, why men scratching their testicles is part of the evolutionary process, and how to beat motorway speed cameras.

But entertaining though much of it is, Landlord of Hope and Glory feels like Murray is pulling his punches, underlined by an embarrassingly weak song to end the show.

  • Al Murray is touring until 30 November





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