On the Campaign Trail with Alan B’Stard

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Gavin Allen for South wales Echo, 27th April 2007

Rik Mayall tapped a waiting Dictaphone speaker and addressed the little machine closely: ‘One-two, one-two. The great thing about me is …’

Always open with a joke.

Sitting in the circle bar at Cardiff’s New Theatre, the star of The Young Ones, Bottom and The Comic Strip insisted on a press conference to promote The New Statesman: Episode 2007.

He likes an audience and playing to a room full of journalists allowed him to deflect questions he didn’t want to answer – all of them.

Instead, Mayall spun a three-act performance.

In a supporting role was the character of Alan B’Stard, whose lines were read theatrically from a script, but B’Stard was overpowered by the lead performance of Rik Mayall, a caricature of vast ego.

There was also the rarely-glimpsed role of his real personality which showed flits of consideration, giving his pen to one absent-minded reporter.

It made a schizophrenic play: puerile but witty, massively egotistical but desperate to please his audience.

‘I’m above politics, I’ve always been a narco-surrealist – very violent, very egalitarian, very sexy,’ said Mayall, launching into his monologue.

‘Actually, I’m beneath politics. I’m either side of politics. I’m bigger than politics.

‘Anyway, Tony Blair tried to assassinate me in 1998 by fixing the brakes on my quad bike,’ he continued, referring to the accident that put him in a coma and almost claimed his life.

‘The medical truth of it is that I was dead for five days.

‘I cracked my head open on the day before Good Friday – my kids call it C**p Thursday – and the doctors kept me alive with wires all through Good Friday, all Saturday, all Easter Sunday – it’s important to note that – and then on the Bank Holiday Monday I came back to life.

‘That means I beat Jesus Christ 5-3 on days dead 2000 years later, which holds a certain significance doesn’t it?

‘God told me to resurrect Alan B’Stard to free the people from the evil of Tony Blair.’

In the stage revival of the successful Eighties sitcom, B’Stard is seeking to join the oil-rich Trillionaires Club and he doesn’t care what he has to do to get in.

‘Alan is probably the most amoral character I have created,’ said Mayall, briefly serious. ‘And the characters you do best have something of your own nature in them.’

Mayall offered his theory on performance – to leave an audience wanting more and never go back – so why is he returning to a previously closed chapter of his career?

‘The writers (Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran) gave me the script and I said ‘We’ve done The New Statesman‘ but I read it and it was absolutely brilliant because it is exactly what has happened to British politics.

‘In the play, you have a very right-wing MP who destroyed the Tory Party in the ’80s so he invents New Labour by plucking a non-entity from the gutter, dusting him off, calling him Tony Blair and sticking him in 10 Downing Street.

‘Alan lives in 9 Downing Street, from where he runs this country, and that’s the premise. He’s very high up and very evil.’

But given that Blair may not be long for this political world, what happens if there is a new Prime Minister halfway through this tour, does the play collapse?

‘We’ll be all right because we have a warehouse full of gags and scripts waiting for us. We’ll have to throw it together really fast because the very next day the whole thing is going to have to be about Gordon Brown but we have material backed up.

‘If you saw the show last year, you would probably recognise about a fifth of it because there is such a rolling turnover of gags.

‘The two writers are the best comedy writers in the country.’

They are on the phone all the time pouring jokes in.

‘But the important thing is that when my people need me to bring down the Prime Minister, I do.

‘I brought down Thatcher for the British people back in the day and now we need Blair brought down.

‘He doesn’t have much time left so if you want to enjoy his last thrashings then come along to the New Theatre, Cardiff – the best theatre in the country by far.’

His monologue over, he was off, peacocking down Queen Street, handing out ‘Vote For B’Stard’ rosettes and meeting the public.

He talked to them generously but never stopped long enough to answer their questions.