Preview: Ryecart, Blair, Bush and Bunga

When Blair Had Bush and Bunga
When Blair Had Bush and Bunga
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Star of The High Life, Patrick Ryecart enjoys a different sort of high life as director of a Fringe political satire on the world of Bush, Blair and Berlusconi

THE weather may take a turn for the worse every now and then during the Fringe, showers and clouds never far away, but that hasn’t dampened the mood of festival-goers in the city.

Bristo Square still buzzes with the hype of flierers, even early in the morning. Inside the Pleasance Dome it’s warm, a world away from the grey skies outside.

Up the stairs, hidden in Brooke’s Bar, where actors gather, Patrick Ryecart is relaxing on a red coloured sofa, clad in a striking camel-coloured coat and sipping from a takeaway cup of coffee.

Ryecart is more commonly to be found on stage or screen - you may remember him from the hit Scottish BBC TV comedy The High Life, in which he played the bonkers Captain Hilary Duff - however, today he is wearing his director’s hat.

The play concerned, a satirical comedy called When Blair Had Bush And Bunga, delves into ‘untold evidence’ of the Chilcot Report; George Bush, Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi and their companions and staff are on a summer holiday... at Cliff Richard’s house.

Ryecart, who has also appeared in Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Doctor Who, and more recently as Lord Wigram in The King’s Speech, says, “The piece takes the premise of an old fashioned farce, like Brian Rix and John Chaplin comedies, which are basically very simple, unintellectual, funny gags.

“The gags go right through the play as they discuss the possibility of invading Iraq - Bush thinks that Al Qaeda is a guy called Al.”

For those shy of politics, Ryecart insists When Blair Had Bush And Bunga can be understood by anyone.

“It’s basic humour. You could watch it without knowing anything about Iraq and still have fun. It does what it says on the tin.”

Even the posters are giggle-worthy, seeing the bottom half of Blair, Bush and Berlusconi in patriotic swimming shorts and speedos, builder’s tan lines and all.

They have certainly been pulling in the audiences reveals Ryecart. But then satire has always been popular and political satire is particularly en vogue at the moment, thanks to platforms such as YouTube and panel shows on TV.

“I think Mr Blair’s legacy is one of absolute ridicule,” says Ryecart simply. “Everybody is now getting really pretty hacked off that, after six years, we have no answer yet about Blair.

“I think everybody, whichever way they were swayed to vote all those years ago, has been appallingly deceived by what happened.”

That said, the actor turned director is unashamedly sure of the aim of the piece, to make people laugh.

“I like to laugh,” he chuckles.

“There’s so much pretentiousness that goes into theorising and the intellectual taking apart of plays, but Chekhov, revered by everyone as one of the greatest dramatists of all time, simply said, ‘If I go to the theatre, I either enjoy it or I don’t, it’s as simple as that,’ and I just wanted to write that sort of play.”

As with Spitting Image, it seems the British public can resist poking fun through the use of exaggerated, silly versions of our politicians.

“It’s just a good evening out.” Ryecart says, “written by someone who just wants to enjoy people laughing at ‘a couple of Bambi types’ as much as he does.”

He even thinks Bush and Blair would take a shine to it themselves.

“I think Tony Blair would probably like to play himself. He wouldn’t get the part.

“And I don’t think George Bush would get it either. They were all just in love with each other.”

When Blair Had Bush And Bunga, Pleasance Courtyard, until 31 August, 7pm, £13.50-£16.50, 0131-226 0000