Live Review: Matt Forde's Political Party, Garrick Theatre

Live Review: Matt Forde's Political Party, Garrick Theatre

Matt Forde was quick to say how glad he was to be appearing at the Garrick after being away for so long and his audience was pretty happy too. Forde's Political Party shows in which he grills politicians have had a loyal following for over half a decade. Imagine Paxman-meets-Richard Herring, politics-meets-playfulness. I had the misfortune of seeing Jacob Rees Mogg do one in 2016 just before the Referendum so I've always had mixed feelings about them. Last night's show however was a real post-Mogg palate cleanser, with entertaining chat and humour from both politicians and Forde alike.

First up was Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. We already know she can be funny and outspoken after seeing her "Baroness Bitch" schtick on Channel 4's Stand Up And Deliver where she was mentored by Nick Helm. She was honest enough here to say that she would have preferred Jason Manford (who tutored Shaun Ryder) and added, with a flirty twinkle in her eye, wouldn't anyone want Jason Manford? If nothing else I saw for the first time why Manford is so popular. 

The former Co-Chairwoman of the Conservative Party was also happy – to a point - to criticise the current government. They have swung too far to the right and she would like the Conservative Party to move closer to the centre again. Forde did his best to get her to put the boot into Boris Johnson and various other cabinet members but Warsi maybe pulled her punches a little there. And maybe Forde too – he would like Johnson to stick around, at least for the sake of his own career. He does a pretty decent impression of Johnson as well as the last US President (on Spitting Image and onstage) and, as he quipped, he has already lost Trump he can't afford to lose Johnson too.

Warsi would have been worth the ticket price alone but the second guest was a real suprise. I'd never expected Peter Mandelson to be much fun but he was an absolute hoot with a very wicked, withering dry sense of humour. After complaining about being given wine when he had asked for whisky the first part of the chat was about feet. After Forde mentioned that he had gout in a toe and thus wasn't drinking Mandelson proceeded to remove a shoe and sock to show off his own foot. I've seen a few sights onstage in my time but a sockless Mandelson will stick in my mind.

After this impromptu strip the rest of the interview was mainly about his pivotal role in politics back in the Blair/Brown days. I don't know if he said much that hasn't been said before but it was amazing to hear first-hand about the jockeying for position as soon as the late Labour leader John Smith had died suddenly of a heart attack in 1994. Mandelson first went to speak to Brown then later on the same day Blair and painted a vivid picture of his role in the leadership race.

As for politics today Forde asked him what Keir "Keith" Starmer should do to get Labour back into power. Mandelson suggested he had to come up with a slogan that could "cut through" - this is what Blair had done with "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime". Personally I think it was more than a slogan that got Tony Blair elected – the Tories by 1997 were pretty knackered after so long in power, for example, and the country was probably ready for a change, Blair just came along at the right time – though maybe the slogan helped. 

Timing in politics, as in comedy, is everything. Blair came along at the right time and Johnson, bizarrely, has had a run of luck that would be the envy of any riverboat gambler. Covid has overshadowed any mess left by Brexit (so far anyway), while his vaccination success (so far anyway) had overshadowed the criticism of his handling of lockdown.

As for Mandelson – who was previously MP for Hartlepool, the seat Labour just lost – he is still involved in politics behind the scenes. But if he wasn't his comic timing is pretty good, he could certainly give Baroness Warsi a run for her money as a stand-up comedian.

Both interviews should also be available as podcasts here soon. 

Further Matt Forde live news here.



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