After more than ten years in the shadows, the most depraved, corrupt and coniving politician in Britian has re-emerged into the limelight. Episode 2006: The Blair B’Stard Project, sees Rik Mayall taking to stages around the country reprising his role as Alan Beresford B’Stard, star of the late eighties comedy The New Statesman.
It is the alarmingly rapid metamorphosis of the idealistic New Labour dream of 1997 into what is almost a parody of the Tory party as portrayed in the original TV series that has provided the motivation for Mayall and writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran to recast the ‘most right-wing Tory in the House’ as a New Labour mandarin extraordinaire. That B’Stard, that power-crazed embodiment of callous, self-centred extreme Thatcherism, could thrive and prosper within a New Labour government provides the central satirical theme of the production.
Sadly that is really the only satirical aspect of the whole thing. The TV series was always a mix of wonderfully absurd plotlines, knob jokes, and sharp political comment. Somewhere along the line the last of these elements has been lost. The politcal jibes are the usual obvious and predictable lines we’ve heard a thousand times before (Precott’s fat, Cherie’s ugly, 51st State foreign policy, etc), and the portrayl of real world figures such as Condoleeza Rice is two-dimensional at best. There’s certainly nothing new, or surprising to be seen here.
In the shows defence the plotlines are as enterainingly absurb as the TV series’ ever were, with B’Stard engineering everything from the death of John Smith, to the [lack of] WMD in Iraq, and all for his personal profit of course. Rik Mayall clearly enjoys playing B’Stard again and does so brilliantly, the trademark sneer and knowing looks to the audience always capable of raising a laugh when timed as well as this.
A fan of the original TV series, I had been looking forward to seeing this for a while, and my expectations were high. As a straightforward comedy the show is entertaining enough and undoubtedly well worth seeing. But for me the reduction in quality and quantity of real satire in favour of more puerile knob gags was a disappointment. Though perhaps that’s just symptomatic of how things really have changed in the last decade….