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Al Murray: The Pub Landlord - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Al Murray’s Edinburgh show is full of old material. But then, that’s the point. In an fascinating experiment, he’s decided to recreate all of his Perrier-nominated shows over five lunchtimes. ‘Maybe I’ll remember it, maybe I won’t,’ he warns from the outset.

Today, we’re going to chuckle like it’s 1996 – the year of Spice Girls, Prince Charles’s divorce, mad cow disease and The Pub Landlord’s first solo show. How accurate the reconstruction is, it’s impossible to tell for those of us who weren’t here 13 years ago – but if it is faithful, it’s amazing how fully-formed the character was. There’s little difference between this act and the one that filled the O2 this year, other than being a little more muted – none of the hugely exaggerated gestures we’ve come to expect.

Of course, Murray has a lot more bantering experience under his belt now, and the interaction with his audience is as fluid and quick-witted as we’ve come to expect from the Guv’nor. Again, we cannot tell if he was this sharp all that time ago.

The running jokes that have sustained his career are nearly all here. The Australians are bred for bar work, the French should be pitied, not mocked, ‘it’s been a year…’ A gag about Michael Portillo being defence secretary and the rickety Eurostar service on the British side of the Channel Tunnel are the only real indicators of the show’s vintage.

Most the material bears up remarkably well. The idea that the gospels are like four hungover men trying to piece together the events of the previous night is especially strong, while his ill-advised first aid tips and suggestion that English is the brain’s natural language are nicely witty.

But the main attraction here is seeing Murray close-up. His greatest talent is his interaction with the audience, and a room like this, where he can get in among us, is where that can be experienced in full effect. And with none of the feeling that it’s more of a rally than a gig that can dog his recent Enormodome performances.

Review date: 29 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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