“If you are not into name-dropping” Gyles Brandreth muses, with a knowing glint in his eye, “this could be a rough afternoon for you!”
Regaling an enraptured sold-out audience with stories from the worlds of show business and politics, the names are dropped in such rapid succession, you begin to worry if the stage at the Gordon Aikman Theatre is sufficiently reinforced for this onslaught. From the late Duke of Edinburgh instructing him from where to buy “a device” to an encounter where Gyles waxing lyrical about the Sex Pistols was greeted by a suitably punky “FUCK OFF” by Johnny Rotten, the great, the good and Boris Johnson are all grist to Gyles’ hilarious anecdote mill.
If your impression of the best-selling biographer, raconteur, former MP turned jumper-wearing TV regular is that his show might be rather anodyne, at the end of Can’t Stop Taking you will think differently. This is an entertainer who both knows his audience but is prepared to nudge their expectations of him. Known for appearing on all five series of Celebrity Gogglebox, he mischievously suggests “I’ve not heard of anyone else on the show”.
When one of the options from a menu of potential topics turns out to be “Rough Sex”, Brandreth instantly invokes his friend and brief Gogglebox companion, Carol Vorderman, whose safe word is apparently “consonant”. One of the surprise delights of the show is that the audience is in a constant state of semi-shock that Gyles would actually go there. Telling a story where he had to make a purchase in a shop, he deadpans “I went straight to the front of the queue. Yes, this even was years before I joined This Morning”.
At 75, Gyles’ audience may mainly consist of a more senior crowd than you’d expect at the Fringe. With belly laughs from being the voice of Tena Flex Plus, watching adverts where women wear full bathing costumes to enter walk-in baths and getting the audience dutifully to singalong to the theme of Andy Pandy (“this is the point where younger members begin to suspect they’ve joined a cult”), he nails his target demographic. Decrying being pigeonholed with the “old codgers” label, Can’t Stop Talking really will entertain anyone smart enough to buy a ticket.
There is something so naughty-but-irresistible about Gyles Brandreth. He’s like the cream scone of the Fringe. You know it’s deliciously indulgent and yet it’s something you’ll never regret.
Gyles Brandreth, Don’t stop talking – ★★★★★ 5 stars