Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Al Murray: The Pub Landlord’s Summer Saloon, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Paul Whitelaw.
Al Murray has inhabited his Pub Landlord alter ego for so long – more than 20 years and counting – it’s no wonder he’s so at ease in that trademark blazer and crested shirt.
What’s more surprising, perhaps, is that, even after all this time, he’s never grown tired of this worryingly lovable, xenophobic blowhard.
Watching him live, where the character works best, one can easily see why. This isn’t a cynical performer lazily exploiting a much-loved act: much like Barry Humphries, who danced with Dame Edna for 60 years, Murray is still energised and inspired by the monster he’s created.
That’s why audiences still flock to see him; an evening with the Landlord is a guaranteed session of roaring bonhomie. His latest show is no exception.
Without losing sight of its overall structure, a large percentage of his act is devoted to improvisation. I cringe whenever I approach hyperbole but only a fool would deny that Murray has few comedy rivals when it comes to quick-witted audience interaction. His ability to riff off the standard triggers – What’s your name? What do you do? – is masterful.
Tonight, during this proudly traditional circus of sharply funny gags, beer-sodden games and satirical song, he found two gifts in the crowd: a man who designs warships for a living and another who performs puppet shows for the NHS (yes, really). Naturally, the Landlord’s patriotic pride was piqued by the former, while the latter was met with inchoate ire. Both became hilarious running gags throughout the show (he almost broke character, such was their absurdity), Murray weaving them into his prepared material with the utmost command.
The show you see won’t be identical. But it’ll still be an audience with undisputed Guvnor.
Assembly George Square Gardens (Venue 3) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 28 August 2015
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