Gyles Brandreth admits his own earliest theatrical adventures weren’t exactly covered in glory.
“I played Hamlet as a boy when I was still at school,” he recalls. “The audience threw eggs at me. I went on as Hamlet and came off as Omelette!”
And yet it’s a world he loves – a world he celebrates in Break A Leg!, his new tour which brings him to Brighton’s Komedia on Monday, April 15 at 7pm and The Spring in Havant on Saturday June 15 at 7.30pm and Sunday, June 16 at 5pm.
It’s 44 dates on a wake-up-and-wonder-where-you-are tour, says Gyles: “But I do a lot of TV and I love the rough and tumble of live performance.”
The show enjoyed a hugely-successful five-star-rated run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2018, with every show sold out.
Now Gyles, actor, author, ex-MP, broadcaster and stand-up comedian, is on the road. Not the least of his promises is that there won’t be any mention of Brexit. And no, he really doesn’t wish he was still an MP.
“The year before I became an MP I had done panto, which felt pretty good preparation for it. But really you are either in or you are out. When I gave it up, I was pleased to give it up… though sometimes I think it would be quite exciting to be back in there! But what I do know is that my audiences are guaranteed two hours without Brexit.
“My show is about showbusiness and about entertainment and I talk about a lot of old actors and some new ones. I reflect on some of the greats, people like Wolfit and Olivier, people who were born before the First World War, and I suppose if there is a message, it is that life goes on.
“The initial germ of the idea for the show was that I have met over the years a vast number of amusing and interesting people. The idea for the show came last year when I went to a memorial service for Roger Moore. I had known him since I was a school boy. I had known him since I was ten, and he was always my favourite 007.
“I had kept in touch with him and at the memorial service, I was telling somebody the story of how he had given me masterclasses. Roger was very self-deprecating. He said he only ever had two cues for the camera. One was right eyebrow up. The other was left eyebrow up, and so he gave me these lessons on how to raise the right eyebrow and how to raise the left eyebrow. After several weeks, I said to him ‘I am doing very well with my left eyebrow but I can’t get the right eyebrow.’ I asked him why couldn’t I? He said ‘It’s very simple. It is because you are half the actor I am!’
“I was at the memorial service, and somebody said to me that it was such a funny story that I should put it in a show. So I started thinking ‘Why don’t I do a fun show about all the showbusiness people I have known from the 50s through to the present day?’”
The results is Break a Leg!, Gyles’s riotous celebration of all things theatrical, Brandreth unleashed on the stars he’s known and the theatre stories that have made him laugh – and occasionally cry.
A prolific broadcaster, Gyles has appeared on QI (BBC2), Have I Got News For You (BBC1), Room 101 (BBC1), Just A Minute (BBC Radio 4), and is a reporter and presenter for The One Show (BBC 1), as well as Dictionary Corner’s most frequent resident on Countdown (Channel 4). He is the chancellor of the University of Chester, a columnist for The Oldie and the author of seven Victorian murder mysteries featuring Oscar Wilde as his detective now published in 22 countries around the world.