sun 25/10/2020

Alexei Sayle, Oxford Playhouse review - return of the political bruiser | reviews, news & interviews

Alexei Sayle, Oxford Playhouse review - return of the political bruiser

Alexei Sayle, Oxford Playhouse review - return of the political bruiser

A lot to get off his chest after seven years away

Alexei Sayle is still angry about most things, but he finds the funny in them

It has been seven years since Alexei Sayle last toured, with radio shows and books detaining him elsewhere, but he's back with a bang. As he walks on stage, he immediately starts railing about the “Eton boys running the country”; instead of hailing the school for having produced 20 prime ministers, “it should be in special fucking measures.” Oh, we've missed him.

It has been seven years since Alexei Sayle last toured, with radio shows and books detaining him elsewhere, but he's back with a bang. As he walks on stage, he immediately starts railing about the “Eton boys running the country”; instead of hailing the school for having produced 20 prime ministers, “it should be in special fucking measures.” Oh, we've missed him.

The old-fashioned lefty – who invented alternative comedy, he says with a knowing look more than once in the 80-minute set – is in mourning for what might have been, he says. He clearly has a lot to get off his chest, as a referendum and three general elections have happened since he last toured. He's an equal-opportunities offender, throwing jibes at the “conservative” BBC and the "useless" Guardian, and it's almost like old times when he works in a neat gag about Israel and the occupied territories.

Peter Kay and Ant and Dec, comics he regards as money-obsessed, get it in the neck too, although his mate Lenny Henry has an easier ride about having once appeared in The Black and White Minstrel Show when he was starting out in comedy.

The Liverpudlian bruiser, who grew up in a Communist household, is still angry, with lots of targets for his political bile. Even the dear old Queen gets a dishonourable mention (she “pervades our civic life like a skin disease”), but this is mostly so he can launch into a wonderfully surreal story in which Her Majesty appears in person as Regina at a scally's criminal trial.

The energy level and the gag quotient are high, and his reach is broad. References to Harvey Weinstein, David Miliband, the DUP and Comic Relief (which he regards as a work creation scheme for comedians) sit alongside those to Pret a Manger and knowing Lily Allen when she was a toddler.

At 67, he's grateful for his bus pass but has started to feel his age – and when he passed 60 he found it a bit weird that the NHS asked him to send a stool sample to be examined (although now he might be tempted to send it to Jacob Rees-Mogg).

Sayle had a health scare last year, and he turns the story, which thankfully had a positive outcome, into a bravura finale. It's good to have him back.

  • Alexei Sayle is touring until 6 April
The energy level and the gag quotient are high, and his reach is broad

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters