The gleam in his eyes is undiminished, and so is his sense of adventure. At 75, Gyles Brandreth is taking on his toughest test – a nationwide tour that is completely unscripted, the one-man-show equivalent of a trapeze act without a safety net. Why, Gyles, why?
“Terror is driving me to do it!” the likeable cove tells me with a smile like a beam of Spring sunshine. “And it’s all down to President Biden. I was in Cork in April and from across the road someone shouted, ‘Hey Joe, how are you doing?’ – they genuinely thought that I was the President of the United States of America.
“My wife said, ‘That’ll teach you for shuffling along!’”
His shuffling was the result of nasty tumble in Scotland a few months earlier; he’d broken in his humerus in two places.
“I’d fallen over and as I lay on the floor, I looked at my wife – who was lying beside me as a result of my fall – and I decided I have got to pull myself together. Action is required! Starting with a get-fit regime. I am spending most of my life standing on one leg and I’ve started Irish dancing. If I ever did Celebrity Britain’s Got Talent, my act would be Joe Biden meets Michael Flatley!
“Keep my body fit and mind fit that’s the plan.”
READ MORE: King’s pal Gyles Brandreth says him being older is best for Britain
Gyles Brandreth Can’t Stop Talking is both an undeniable statement of fact and the name of his show now running at the Edinburgh Fringe before hitting the road. Michele, his long-suffering wife of fifty presumably exhausting years, thought up the title.
“The idea is when I walk on stage, I don’t know what I’m going to talk about, the audience decides! I have a menu, Brandreth à la carte, so people can choose subjects like my childhood, my worst-ever moment, political stories, Royal stories, showbiz stories, lucky dip… There’s a starter selection, mains and a variety of puddings. It’s a mental workout.”
There’s also a risky ‘ask-me-anything’ option. Try-out shows in the north produced unexpected questions. “I was asked my views on Newcastle’s sponsorship deal with a Saudi Arabian firm. I was asked who wouldn’t I have dinner with…
“The truth is I’d have dinner with anyone, even Vladimir Putin, although I probably wouldn’t risk eating.”
At London’s Fortune Theatre, a lady asked him when the play would start. “She thought she was in the audience for The Woman In Black matinee!”
Brandreth’s gift of the gab was evident even as a child. His memoir, Odd Boy Out, written in lockdown, reveals that his three older sisters once offered to give their parents all of their pocket money if it meant they could afford to send chatterbox Gyles to boarding school.
Does he ever switch off?
Queen Camilla ‘leaves guests feeling awkward’ with break of protocol – claims[INSIGHT]
Phillip Schofield aghast after Gyles Brandreth mocks his appearance[NEWS]
Gyles Brandreth opens up on Queen’s unusual umbrella admission[REVEAL]
“I am quite quiet at home. My wife has heard everything I’ve got to say. At the show, she tells me, ‘You think you’re the thinking man’s Ken Dodd, you’re not – get off!’ She sits in the wings with a stopwatch and tells me which jokes to drop.”
Fifty years ago, Gyles played to three people at the Oxford Festival Fringe – “they were Japanese, they didn’t laugh”. He faced a tougher crowd in Manchester when he found himself opening for Bernard Manning.
“It was terrifying, looking out at the audience through a haze of smoke. I was 22. My first night was a disaster! At the end of my spot, I did a headstand on the basis everyone loves a headstand – they didn’t notice. I’d lost them.
“Bernard Manning was very funny. His material was unacceptable even then, but he was very good to me. The next night, he took me to one side and told me, ‘When they get louder, you go softer; don’t go faster go slower, speak quietly and they’ll listen’…”
There is no danger of Gyles drying up. The personable polymath holds the Guinness world record for the longest-ever after-dinner speech, a jaw-aching twelve and a half hours. His cascade of anecdotes seems as inexhaustible as the tides.
We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info
Of the late Queen he says, “Did you know she did impressions? She did Ian Paisley, George Formby – she held an imaginary ukulele and sang When I’m Cleaning Windows. She was an amazing woman. There was no malice in her whatsoever. She did a perfect imitation of Concorde landing…”
His one regret is his indiscreet biography of the Duke Of Edinburgh. “He suggested I did it for one of his charities, and then I expanded it. He didn’t want to talk about his unusual childhood – he didn’t see his parents for years. He said, ‘It’s nothing, it’s not central to the story’.
“I felt bad that I wrote about it, but when I handed over the manuscript, he didn’t complain. His objections were all literal. He said ‘I didn’t serve on HMS Valiant’ – during the war – ‘I served in it, you stupid bugger’.
“I wrote that his father had floated down to the south of France. He said, my father didn’t float, he went by train!’ I admired him hugely.”
Brandreth’s 2022 best-seller, Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait is more celebratory. He has written umpteen books, including seven murder mysteries featuring witty Irish playwright Oscar Wilde as a detective, and met everyone from the Sex Pistols and Michael Jacksons to presidents and heads of state via every veteran actor and comedian you could name.
Gyles’s love affair with entertainers began with a crystal set radio. While other boys listened to pirate DJs, he lapped up BBC comedies, like Jimmy Edwards’s Take It From Here, and The Glums.
“Eth was played by June Whitfield and I fell in love with her voice, then I went to the cinema and fell in love with Hayley Mills.”
At Oxford University in 1968, he put on a production of Cinderella, with Eliza Manningham-Buller, later the head of MI5, as the Fairy Queen. His eye was caught by undergraduate Michele Brown who auditioned as Cinders and ended up in the longer-running sideshow of their happy marriage.
The couple have three adult children and seven grandchildren and live in Barnes, southwest London, with an adopted cat.
Gyles, son of a hard-pressed lawyer, grew up in an array of rented flats in South Kensington.
Fired by self-belief, this modern Renaissance man’s career spans books, theatre, journalism, TV (mostly recently Celebrity Googlebox with friend Sheila Hancock), and politics…He was in pantomime with Barbara Windsor in 1991 when news broke that he was quitting showbiz to become the Conservative MP for the City of Chester, prompting one wag to suggest he was moving from panto to farce.
These days he feels politicians have lost touch with the public. I ask about ULEZ, and he replies, “When I became an MP, I believed you must trust the people; MPs are supposed to be the servants of the people, not the masters.
“I’m totally sympathetic with environmental ambitions but you have to get the pace right. You cannot take people for granted.”
TV news gets him down. “It’s so awful, Ukraine, Northern Africa…we very rarely watch the news at home. We record Bargain Hunt and watch that instead because it’s positive and you learn from it.
“I surround myself with positive things.”
He has a bus pass now, and a senior Railcard.
“People are always friendly. In the streets I always get ‘What’s your jumper?’.” (His trademark colourful knitwear brand is sold in Selfridges, naturally.) Even when he fell in Fife and was waiting for the ambulance, he says, “A man asked ‘Do you mind while you’re down there if I take a selfie?’
“They gave me gas and air, I loved it. I was ready to have a baby. Kirkcaldy hospital patched me up but I’m still in having physio.”
Gyles feels an obligation to be cheerful and to live life to the full. Hence the tour.
“It’s exciting,” he says. “The mind is a muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Bring on the trapeze!
- Gyles Brandreth is performing at the Assembly George Square throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe before embarking on a national tour. Tickets from gylesbrandreth.net
Source: Read Full Article