Al Murray has been serving pints for the gentleman and wine or a fruit based drink for the lady since I was in short trousers, and yet his love and vigour for the character remains undimmed. Thank goodness.
Murray bounces on stage like a huge, angry baby and wastes no time in tearing into political correctness, remainers and Angela Merkel. I’m not a massive fan of overtly political comedy (or music, or films, or pretty much anything else for that matter) but as the Pub Landlord lampoons both sides with a subtle intellectualism, he stays very much on the right side of being bearable during the more political moments of the evening.
Murray’s true skill comes with his crowd work. Whilst some of his quickfire responses are potentially repeated night after night (‘hardest job in the world teaching… I couldn’t do it… I wouldn’t know what to do with all the time off’), other moments are clearly pouring forth from Murray’s beautiful bald head in the heat of the moment and it is in these exchanges that Al Murray’s genius is exposed. Hiding such a dazzling intelligence behind a small minded imbecile like the Pub Landlord is a risky strategy but, crucially, Murray ensures that his on stage persona remains likeable if a little… misguided.
Having worked in pubs for over a decade myself before settling on teaching, I have met a good few Al Murray’s in my time, and, alas, I could have been one myself had I continued down that particular path. I was never more at home than when perched at the end of the bar with a continental lager in my hand and a song in my heart as the customers pretended to be interested in my philosophical musings in order to ensure that I would keep serving them alcohol. Al Murray’s Pub Landlord captures this dichotomy perfectly and it made me ache for a profession that I truly, deeply loved.
Self-indulgent reminiscing aside though, Al Murray’s performance at the Donny Dome is as professional as it is hilarious. As daring as it is vulgar. Put simply, it felt like a night in your favourite boozer. And surely, there can be no greater compliment than that…