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‘Lovely girls' The People's Friend. 'The Alexander Sistersturned my son into an olive and drank him in a martini.‘ Sunday Sport. 15.

‘The most important philosopher since Nietzhe. Can't spell Nietzsche. Aka Bing Hitler. 12 July.

pushing some extremely talented people over the cliff. I hope it will throw up a lot of interesting new variety talent.‘

In format the shows won‘t be quite so grand as the days of the old Alhambra. it has to be said. But there will be a lavish backdrop and stairway. and while there might not be Tiller girls. the Rotating Dancers will appear as pastiche chorus girls. Boyd is not trying to satirise the old tradition. however —< the whole thing is done in a spirit of respect. ‘We're paying reference to the early varier show. not apeing it.‘ i

The mood at present is one of anticipation. "The buzz that we‘ve got back is tremendous.’ says Bovd. ‘I think it brings ma.- good ' memories. And I suppose by calling it the Five Pas! [fig/it we're setting our standards quite high. But it‘s a good scztrittess.‘

The Five l’ust [fig/11Showruns/rum [2—3 I July. See ( ‘uhure! listings.



Steve Nallon is Margaret Thatcher. Stephanie Billen. a little rattled by this true blue doppelganger. hears ofthe tribulations and triumphs of the man who would be the

‘Yes ufmurse you can. This is probably the one time in your life that you will have to ask me a question so please do go ahead and don‘t be nervous. You can ask me about anything you like. so take your time . . .'

She's right. This is a unique opportunity and I am already as tongue-tied as if it was the real Margaret Thatcher huffing and puffing at me down the phone.

‘What do you think ofSteve Nallon doing impersonations of you'." I venture. ‘I do enjoy comedy. only why can ~I we make funny programmes“? I like watching true comedy programmes like The Two R()I1IIf(’.S‘. though I do find myself wondering. couldn‘t one Ronnie do the job just as well. I‘m sure Steve Nallon is very good. but I've never met him and I don‘t particularly want to. . .‘

Slipping back into his own Northern accent. Steve Nallon repostes that he doesn‘t want to meet her either (‘She‘d hate me'). then goes on to tell me about all the people who are dying to meet and interrogate her. or at least his slightly burly equivalent. Nallon is rarely caught out. though he does remember two tricky moments - once when a girl accused him of murdering innocent people in Northern Ireland and once when a student asked him what he thought ofyoghurt.

()ccasionally of course he comes x

across a totally bloody-minded audience. but altogether more civilised are the businessmen devotees of'l‘hatcber who invite him to bless their companies' products and open their conferences. Ten months ago. however. Nallon almost found himself at the centre ofan international incident. One company asked him to a trade fair in Hanover and then wrote to all their competitors saying that the PM was coming along. 'It was all done very well. The Italians were convinced and the Germans were saluting me. But all the other British companies wrote to the (‘onsul General in Hanover asking why she was only visiting one British company. The police got involved. and by that time I was worried that the Baader-Meinhofgang were going to come along and shoot me.‘

Such is Nallon's talent that it is tempting to imagine he has some

Prime Minister. kind ofThatcher fetish. Nallon's explanation is simple. ‘It was because Mike Yarwood couldn’t do her.‘ he says. ‘I Ie couldn‘t quite get the tone.Her voice is quite deep fora woman. although she was much shrillerat the beginning. and she still has a high voice for unemployment. She has an intellectual intensity which most people try to ignore when they try to imitate her. They tend to play her as a plodding Lady Mayoress when she‘s really incredibly alert and ready to pounce. more ofa viper.‘ ‘But you can‘t help admiring her'." Steve sounds concerned. ‘Well. I think you should help admiring her. She is a strange and dangerous woman. Also I think it‘s rather worrying to have a leader with no interest in anything but politics. I think she went into hospital to have her sense of humour

removed as a girl. but it's the same with all the dictators. Stalin. Hitler. Mussolini. none ofthem had one.‘

Whether Nallon is reinforcing or debunking the ‘dictatorship‘ is a matter ofopinion. ‘lt’s difficult to be satirical ifI am going to make her believable but you try to make certain prejudices more obvious. like “I was in the North of Iingland last week. in Watford." It‘s technically possible that she would say that.‘ He remembers asking two people what they thought the net effect was. ‘()ne said it was truly subversive. The other said that if you laugh at her you make her much more human and therefore appealing. I think both views are valid.‘

Slew Nil/[mt is m The live l’us! [fig/II .S‘lmit'mz 12 & IA’Ju/y. See (tr/Mire! Listings.

..gr-' \ N