9-30 Aug 1630 (1730) @ Pleasance One
In one of the larger Pleasance venues, the tone is set as the audience parade in at 4.25pm each day to the pianoforte tones of ‘Tea for Two’. Daintily described by Gyles himself as a tea-time show, there is a small plinth downstage with a teacup and saucer – for one – spotlighted brightly. Tea for one it is, as Brandreth drinks alone, the rest of the audience supping on drinks that come in plastic pint glasses.
Never backward in coming forward, Brandreth strides onstage and immediately holds forth in strident tones, every syllable crisply dealt with. Members of the audience: if you don’t get the joke, it won’t be for poor enunciation. His acting past, and occasional present, means his perfect diction brings every sentence to a ringing close, and every change of pitch is purposeful.
Anecdotes are the order of the day. Anecdotes about very famous people that Brandreth has worked, made friends or hung out with. Once you get past the shameless namedropping, they really are very funny anecdotes as well – the type you repeat afterwards in the bar and still get a laugh from. His history as actor, writer and Member of Parliament is humorously drawn upon, in both its successes and failures of varying magnitudes. The ‘I’m kind of a big deal’ act is extremely convincing – so much so that it is only by deciding that no man can ever be serious in urging people to meet them in the Pleasance Courtyard so they can ‘touch the cloth’ that he gets off the ‘most arrogant man ever’ hook.
Nevertheless, the hour will illuminate those who have never been a young lady sat at dinner next to a middle-aged gentleman who is convinced of his own wit and general relative importance, and who talks at her accordingly. It feels like this – if the young lady is lucky; because, whilst she might be patronised and sporadically sleazed upon, she will also laugh heartily, and sometimes guiltily, on a regular basis.
The show jolts to an end somewhat with a drawn out, tangential set of false closes, before a final poetic denouement (to draw from the vocab book of Gyles). Though just four lines long, the act could do without it: it brings a sentimentality to the scene that belies the wicked cattiness and tongue-in-cheek repartee that has come before. It’s that theatrically extravagant final ‘mid-distance’ pose that sums the show up, not any false declarations of friendship.