PRESENT ‘LAUGHTER King‘s Theatre. Glasgow. Mon 24 Feb-Sat 1 Mar

Think of Rik Mayall on stage and a number of images flash by. There’s Rik in his Young Ones persona, walking onstage at the Edinburgh King‘s and not saying anything for ages, yet having the audience in paroxysms of laughter at his exuberant body language alone. Then there‘s Mayall the proper actor, giving a blinding performance in the title role of The Government Inspector at London’s National Theatre, bringing a wild, OTT charisma to Gogol‘s satire. Fast forward 20 years and there’s Rik with old mucker Ade Edmonson hitting each other with frying pans at the Edinburgh Playhouse in Bottom.

And none of this puts you in mind of Noel Coward. Sure, the inter-war master of wit was a bit of a subversive, but you wouldn’t say his stock in trade was fart gags or setting his partner’s legs on fire.

The idea that he might appear in a Coward play came as a shock to Mayall too, but as soon as he read the script of Present Laughter, he knew it was for him. “The play‘s

about a light comedy actor who‘s very vain, who‘s been famous for 20 years, is a psychopathic shagger, drinks a little bit too much, is always blethering about himself and having tantrums . . . who else is going to play it better than me?’ says Mayall with an enthusiasm that belies the drudgery of the afternoon round of press interviews. ‘lt’s three acts and it’s tight and it‘s fast and it‘s got gags - you’ve got to know about timing. Noel Coward was born to write this for me.’

So what connection can we draw between the many faces of Rik Mayall: between Alan B’stard and Drop Dead Fred, between Richy Rich and Coward’s Garry Essendine? ‘I think the true line is self-obsession,’ he says with sudden candour. ‘A deep subconscious

Mayall man says follow the glam

Realising he's talking to me in Scotland not Bromley, he switches to waxing lyrical about his imminent appearance here. ‘Glasgow,’ he says unexpectedly, ‘is my town.‘

By which he means it‘s where his wife, Barbara, is from and where he got his first big break - as the hilariously drole Kevin Turvey on the otherwise patchy Scottish comedy show A Kick up the 805. ‘I didn’t have any material at all,‘ he recalls. ‘So I thought: well, I‘ll just be as boring as possible. And it clicked. And that was my break.‘

And so, after a hugely entertaining and, I‘m afraid, hugely Iibellous rant about Tony Blair’s motives for war, he leaves me in favour of The Croydon Advertiser. ‘l‘m

inferiority complex, which is deeply hidden and covered sorry Mark, but there are bigger fish than you.‘

with flash.’

’Oilili lHE ATM


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60 THE LIST 32-?

(Mark Fisher)

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Re: Tread/mg the boards

Tam Dean Burn