“Our ears are bleeding!” – Harry Hill on his Tony Blair rock opera | Stage

IIt’s a Tuesday morning and Harry Hill and Steve Brown are discussing their unlikely musical about the New Labour era.There’s a “Absolutely Bad Taste” song about Blair’s “People’s Princess” Eulogy,They told me. They have John Prescott and Robin Cook, played by women. “There’s a song in it,” Brown said, “and it started life with a Gordon Brown speech.” Hill explained: “He was explaining macroeconomics. It’s a lovely song, that.”

They started singing the song – then turned their heads to our table at Bafta Piccadilly in London. “It’s a recitative song,” Brown said. “It’s very exciting.” “I still don’t know what macroeconomics is,” Hill chimed in. A pause. Then Brown took a risk and was helpful: “I think it’s like longevity.”

When I arrive for today’s interview Tony! (Tony Blair Rock Opera) Considered the most surprising theater package of the year, nothing I heard about its creator in over an hour made me doubt the concept. “I’m not particularly into musicals,” Hill said cheerfully, “or politics.” Brown, who wrote the song, added: “Harry is not someone you would initially expect to write satire. And it’s Yes Satire – or the intersection of satire and surrealism. Pause and think. “This is surrealism, or realism.” “

They are pretty double acting, joking back and forth and sending themselves up. Hill is certainly a big lord of stand-up comedy and television, albeit with a smaller collar today. Brown was his composer and collaborator, a Spitting Image veteran, Alan Partridge’s bandleader and, by the way, his father Standing Alfie BrownThey told me their Tony Blair show started out as a spoofed jukebox musical when Hill decided (just like you) to adapt the crowbar party hits from the compilation CD Vintage Cheese into Sedgefield Acting biographies of former members. Hill reports that the concept has reached the point of reading in stages, but “our ears were bleeding after the third song.” As it turns out, theatergoers can only take so many tweets.

“My wife calls us the Flop Twins”… Harry Hill and co-author Steve Brown. Photo: Mark Douai

But Hill stuck with the idea, drafting at Brown to develop it. “I just think the Tony Blair story,” he said, “is really opera. He started as a peace-loving hippie in a rock band and became so successful that we all look to him as a beacon of hope. And then everything Going very wrong. And now he’s in a situation where if you bump into him on the street, you don’t necessarily want to take a selfie.” From Messiah to pariah, I took a risk. “Why didn’t I think of that?” Hill said. “Wait for the second act!”

By a happy coincidence, the long-running pregnancy premiered within the 25th anniversary of New Labour’s landslide general election. But some people’s memories are not yet rosy. “We have all these idiot George Galloway followers online,” Brown said, “tell us, ‘This is horrible! It should never be staged. You shouldn’t be honoring people like that. I thought: ‘You have you seen this movie downfall? It’s about Hitler. It’s okay, isn’t it? ‘” Both writers insist the show is less about an apology for Blair and more about the power that created him. Oh what a lovely war For the New Labour era, Brown said the show, as they described it, was “about power, and the absurdity of one person in charge of a country”. “That system really didn’t work well.”

“We’re also saying: ‘You voted for him. We all voted for him,'” Hill said. “Following Chilcott’s investigation, he ran another election and won by a sizable majority. So who’s to blame? Him, or us?”

Other than that, take note, Tony! is designed to be a sound.blair played by comedian Charlie Baker. Saddam Hussein with mustache and cigar gets a makeover from Groucho Marx. Hill described Cherie Blair on the show as “a cross between Lily Savage and Lily Marlene – seductive, but rude”. And “we have a woman who plays Osama bin Laden,” Brown said, “which definitely defuses that — I was going to say ‘bomb,’ but that’s probably a bad word choice.”

“We bought all the props from a joke shop”… Baker and the actors in rehearsal. Photo: Photo by Mark Duet

“When musicals are advertised as funny,” Hill says from the harrowing experience, “they’re not funny enough. I’ve been fooled so many times. I want to see a show that’s as funny as watching a stand-up comedian for an hour and a half. The show. That’s our goal.”

This isn’t the duo’s first comedy/musical crossover. Cast a shadow on Tony!is their 2014 show I do not know how to sing, a musical based on The X Factor, gained notoriety as one of the West End’s worst flops.The couple can laugh now, it’s safe in the sense that I can’t sing bad (its Comment very aggressive) or even overexposed. “It would be great if we opened in a smaller theater,” Hill said. “We sold as many tickets as most West End shows, but in [2,300-seat capacity] Palladium, it’s always half full. “

But my fate that I couldn’t sing influenced the ambitions of the Tony Blair Show. “I’m trying to get [investors] Interested,” Hill said. “But people are thinking: Look what happened to the last one. My wife doesn’t mince words, she calls us flop twins. “

But the Flop Twins are unafraid – even excited – to have the opportunity to make a show that doesn’t have to shoulder the burden of multi-million pound backing. That’s a problem, Hill says, when West End productions get so clunky, you can’t adjust the jokes, or “when they say, ‘Can you write four more bars of music so we can move the scene?'” “

Tony! Premiering at 200 seats in Finsbury Park in London, it was very low budget and light by comparison. “The props in production, I basically Swift,” Hill said, referring to fancy dress and joke shops. “Eighty percent of them are going into final production. “

If that means the duo can’t make money from the show — well, that’s a small price to pay for the good times. “We’re like cricketers of the past,” Brown said. “Gentlemen, players, just for the summer. They’re doctors and lawyers and they don’t get paid. That’s what it’s like to write musicals.”

Wrong size of venue...I can't sing.
Wrong size of venue…I can’t sing. Photo: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

At least they have other sources of income. This fall, Hill embarked on his first solo tour in a decade, Pedigree Fun. (His last, sausage time, is a cookie. ) he cited locking as a catalyst. “I’m not planning to go on tour. But when they say ‘you can’t go on tour,’ you think, ‘I want to go on tour now.'” But he reports that the bar for live performance has improved Talking Heads’ David Byrne’s 2018 gig, produced and choreographed far beyond the expectations of Byrne’s biggest fans, including Hill. “I saw it and was totally knocked out,” the comedian said. “I left thinking: He could easily show up with the band and sing. I thought: That is what you must do. Go! So this is my plan. “

With his upcoming tour, and summer’s commitment to his hosting role Primary Baking on Channel 4, Hill can be optimistic about Tony’s prospects! Despite the Islington venue, they didn’t expect Blair himself to be there. “We have full authority,” said Hill (from my “new friend” Robert Peston, as well), “and he’s not one to laugh at himself.” As long as normal bettors show up, Hill says, “Honestly, I’m excited to be able to do this for five weeks. Let it go and enjoy it.” After all, given the reputation of their flop twins and the theater district’s growing disfavor for original material, the West End The prospect of a transfer could be low.

“They used to do shows like [the Private Eye-inspired] dear bill In the West End, isn’t it? ‘ Brown recalled thoughtfully.

Hill: “What about George IV? That’s great.”

Brown looked puzzled: “You mean King Charles III?”

Hill: “Charles III, I’m sorry. Did you see that?” Mike Bartlett’s Poems About Prince Charles’ Accession to the Thronehe said, “provided a certain amount of inspiration for this. I think it’s great.”

In the end, the pair are here, neither to bury Blair nor to praise him, but to play with the extraordinary Shakespeare arc of the former prime minister’s career, especially given the world behind him. “There’s a lovely song at the end,” Hill said, “and Blair said, ‘The truth is, the whole world is run by assholes, and always has been. I happened to be that one back then. And then he listed what we have now Leaders of: Putin, Bolsonaro, etc. He said, ‘If I can help you get rid of them and say sorry – will you let me back?'”

Call it Hyper Tire, call it satellite realism – either way, it’s an exciting time for theaters Harry Hill“You sit there thinking: Actually, maybe…” He shuddered. “It’s really weird. It sends shivers down your spine.”