• Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Fringe 2023: Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera

ByJemima Hawkins

Aug 5, 2023
Five men on stage in blue suits, singing in front of a red background which reads "TONY!"

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Think of the New Labour campaign, and then imagine Tony Blair as Jack Black in ‘School of Rock’, add in the strobe lighting of a day of the dead carnival, and songs catchier than those in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’. You may end up about halfway towards the experience of TONY! The Tony Blair Rock Opera.

This brilliant foray into silliness did not disappoint, with a cast of nine managing to play the entirety of the New Labour cabinet, along with Princess Diana, Cherie Blair, Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. A variety of wigs turned Neil Kinnock into Alastair Campbell, then George W Bush in a matter of moments. Those playing Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson shone with exacerbated facial expressions alongside the brilliant words of Harry Hill and Steve Brown, making the performance 90 minutes of fast fuelled and daftly brilliant entertainment.

The show told the life of Blair from a yuppy fresher at Oxford University, with a pop star dream and traditional 70s mop hair, to a war-mongering leader with a desire to please the USA and maintain the ‘special relationship’ at all costs. This whiplash tale was accompanied by many, many, (many) songs differing in theme from one titled the ‘People’s Princess’ to another comparing the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and America to a great white shark and a tiny fish.

Despite the jocular nature of the performance, beneath the surface of bellowing musical numbers was an insightful glimpse into the troublesome reasons those in power get into politics, and the sidelining of a true political vision for change in pursuit of glory and likeability. It portrayed the dubious nature of back-handed governmental deals, and the folly of trusting he who wields the power.

In this vein, the musical closed with a very catchy rendition of ‘The whole wide world is run by arseholes’. Placards of various world leaders graced the stage before all came together to create a large mural of Putin as the biggest arsehole of them all. A small but well received political statement.

I would recommend a rough and ready knowledge of the Blair premiership before attending the show as, despite the chronological nature of the performance, some of the dates and plot details can be lost amid the singing and live backing music. Similarly, someone who has very strong views for or against Blair may find the satirical nature of the show grating. Most jokes should be taken with a pinch of salt, and thick skin.

Despite this, the belly laughs from the audience throughout, and the soundtrack forming an earworm on the way home, is more than enough to recommend this show to anyone and everyone, political or not.

Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera is on at Pleasance at EICC, at various times and dates spanning the duration of the Fringe. More details and tickets here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/tony-the-tony-blair-rock-opera

Image by Mark Senior provided to The Student as press material.