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Matt Forde: Dishonourable Member
Published on Tuesday, 23 August 2011
3

3 stars

Udderbelly's Pasture (venue website)
Comedy
3-28 Aug, 2:55pm-3:55pm
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

Matt Forde has called his stand-up set Dishonourable Member, but he may as well have called it The Secret Diaries of a Tony Blair Fan-Boy Aged 13-And-Three-Quarters.  That’s not to say it isn’t any good – at times it’s very good – but at least the alternative lets the audience know what they’ve let themselves in for.

As befits a TalkSport radio presenter and former Labour Party staffer, Forde’s show focuses first on childhood memories as a supporter of Nottingham Forest, and then on adolescent memories as a supporter of New Labour.  These are spiced by a number of impressions, some good – John Motson and Alan Partridge are always crowd-pleasers, and William Hague’s warbling Yorkshire twang hits the mark – and some less so.  His Blair, in fact, is patchy; at times eerily similar, at other points just generically posh.

The uncritical support for Blair is, as he confesses, something that will divide a room.  Lip service is paid to Iraq, without really examining the consequences which both the military farrago and the perceived obeisance to White House hawks had on Blair’s premiership.  Ironically, with his rubicund, sweat-dripping face, Forde bears a passing resemblance to Damian McBride, the Brown-era special adviser sacked for being caught at dirty political tricks.  Now of course, Forde is not doing here (and did not do as a Labour staffer) the same sort of hatchet job on Blair’s behalf as McBride did for Brown – his job was making up the crowd in photo opportunities, not making up scurrilous rumours about opponents.  He’s even gracious at points about political opponents, whether they’re Parliamentary characters such as Hague, or strong authority figures such as Lady Thatcher.  But when it comes to Blair himself, he is curiously unreflective.

Setting Blair aside, the comedy is strong.  Forde is a likeable figure, less strident and aggressive than the talk-radio background might suggest.  Some of his best stories come from his experiences working as a Labour official, including a fantastically detailed analysis of the sexual magnetism of Peter Mandelson.  He is surprisingly coy when discussing ‘s-e-x’, though, despite it cropping up frequently and it consistently getting the biggest laughs.  The sell-out crowd was caught up throughout, although there was some evident shifting in seats when the even more taboo ‘B-l-a-i-r’ word cropped up.

But I felt that all the good work beforehand was let down by a strange and almost incomprehensible closing set-piece, satirising the bombast of satellite sports broadcasters while mapping out Forde’s own unsophisticated political narrative of a Blair revival tour.  It’s clear the hour was structured to lead up to this point, drawing together a number of threads to their conclusion, but it fell flat for me.

Dishonourable Member is a blast from the past, taking us back to a time when ‘things can only get better.’  I enjoyed Mat Forde’s show, but I’m not sure I felt the hand of history on my shoulder as I watched it.

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