Never trust a B*stard!

Chris Gaynor

Theatre Review - The New Statesman - Richmond Theatre

'It's all good stuff when you're with Alan B*stard.'

Fans of the hilarious satirist, Rik Mayall were unable to see the comedian in action due to illness in his skillful political satirical comedy The New Statesman at Richmond Theatre last Friday night.

But understudy Mike Sherman took on the role of the devious, scheming backbench MP Alan B*stard.

He spiced up the role and made it his own, but there was just a hint of Rik Mayall's sugar coated wit sprinkled on top for good measure.

The play opened with a recorded message impersonating former PM Tony Blair (by John Culshaw) saying: 'we would like all members of the audience to turn off their mobile phones in the interests of national security.' Rip-roaring laughter echoed around the Richmond Theatre.

You could tell that this was going to be an evening of intense political humour - jokes and gags - a plenty - at the expense of the political masters who govern us.

Enter the one and only Alan B*stard from the plush offices of Number 9 Downing Street, with his parliamentary private secretary, Frank, (Garry Cooper). This was to be the opening stage set - (and the only setting for the rest of the play) No stumbling about having to move stage props here! Alan and Frank immediately engage the audience on why they are there.

New boss, Gordon Brown has just won the premiership. Alan is full of optimism. He is hungry for power.

His 'slave,' Frank is a 'real socialist.' Not a New Labourite. And Frank secretly believes that his boss is a B*stard! Enter ambitious Flora Herbert MP, a sexy thirty something, desperate to make it to the top - and B*stard is itching to get into her knickers! And he succeeds. Eventually!

That only leaves one of the many B*stard's wives. Arabella Lucretia B*stard (Lysette Anthony). She is demanding a divorce from B*stard. And lots of money too!

Gags are many - Constant NEWS items pop up all the way throughout. B*stard is like a newsreader. But not a serious one. Well, you can't be when you're doing this type of project. Sherman took to the role like a duck to water - swimmingly trying to do a Rik Mayall himself. And he pulled it off. Well, almost!

As one of the staff at Richmond Theatre, said: 'The understudy is very good.' A refund was on offer for disappointed fans, but you would have been mad to have not seen Sherman put his own take on the role.

In the second half of the play - former PM Tony Blair has been kidnapped - (shock horror!) The new PM has been tricked into a trap by B*stard. Alan managed to persuade his cunning wife to sleep with the new PM so that he could have a a good excuse to get a job in the cabinet. And the country needs him, so he says.

And meet Condoleeza Rice, the foreign affairs supremo puppet of George Bush's American government. She flies in by helicopter via a Downing Street window. Very convenient. Neat sound effects!

She is persuaded by B*stard to invade Norway. Not that the yanks know where that is! But it sounds a good plan says Dr Rice.

Meet a Middle Eastern Habibi (Kamaal Hussain) itching to get his hands on some Weapons of Mass Destructions. Apparently B*stard notifies him that they can be found not in Iraq, but at the BBC! But is this a trap? Of course it is! Never trust a B*stard!

Did understudy Sherman live up to the wit of Mayall? - simple answer , NO. But it was still damn hilarious!

I suspect had been a politician or two lurking in the audience, they would have been dying in there seats (literally) at being so superbly exposed.