Brandreth had audience 'laughing from the start'
By Ron Ellis and Ellen Campbell
Break A Leg – Gyles Brandreth
The Atkinson Southport
Review and interview by Ron Ellis and Ellen Campbell
GYLES Brandreth has one of the best known faces on TV with his regular appearances on The One Show, Sunday Brunch, etc. and he is equally famous on radio for the long running Just a Minute which he hosted for the first time recently when 94 year old quizmaster, Nicholas Parsons, took his first day off sick for 50 years.
Seventy this year, a quarter of a century has passed since Gyles was the speaker at the Champion’s Literary Lunch at the Scarisbrick Hotel but his sparkle and delivery is as infectious as ever and had the audience laughing from the start.
This was one of 19 dates to promote his new book, Break a Leg, a dictionary of theatrical quotations.
Looking around the audience when he bounced onto the stage, he said he knew he was in the right place and proudly announced he was now the voice-over for Tena incontinence pads.
He then proceeded to give us a version of Noel Coward’s Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington, which The Master himself would have been proud of, followed by an hour of non-stop, often indiscreet, gossip about various singers and actors. “I used to like The Benny Hill Show in its day, the way he ran around smirking, pretending to touch up the ladies. Of course he would be arrested now.”
Politicians didn’t escape. (Gyles was once M.P. for Chester). “I hated the constituents with a vehemence and, at the next election I realised they felt the same about me.”
The second half was given over to the audience to ask questions and Gyles was able to reassure one anxious man that he was certainly not after Nicholas Parson’s job. He also recited a risqué poem by Ronnie Barker that had the audience shouting along. You never knew what might be coming next. Maybe he would break into a dance.After the show, he spent over half an hour signing copies of his book for the long queue of fans in the foyer before we adjourned to the Vincent Hotel for a late night meal and he and his wife, Michele, spoke about their life together.
The Brandreths are, in fact, a two-handed team. Break a Leg was actually compiled by Michele who is herself a writer. Gyles’s contribution was the introduction.
“We’re appearing at the Edinburgh Festival all through August, promoting the book, so this is like a trial run to judge the audience reaction,” explained Gyles, who has won five-star awards at previous Edinburgh Festivals.
Michele accompanies him on the tour, sitting in the wings making careful notes of which jokes go best and what adjustments might be made to improve it. “We play about with the script as we go along, fine tuning it until we feel we’ve got it right.
The couple have three children and seven grandchildren. Their son, Benet, is a Q.C. and has just completed his second novel, The Assassin of Verona, featuring William Shakespeare as the hero. Daughter Saethryd is also a writer and her sister, Aphra is a local councillor.
The couple see a lot of their family as they all live reasonably close together around Barnes in South London.
“Money is what brings your grandchildren close to you,” said Gyles, half-jokingly.
The couple are travelling round the country by train, not easy in the post-Beeching area, and stay in guest houses along the way. just as if they were on holiday, but they are never out of touch with what is happening in the world. Gyles is a fervent Twitter poster, always in the limelight. A great trouper.
Star Rating 8 out of 10. A thoroughly entertaining, laugh a minute show.
Photo: The Champion's Ron Ellis and Ellen Campbell with Michele Brown and Gyles Brandreth.