Al Murray’s Gig For Victory – Live Review – York Grand Opera House
By Kirsy Reid, September 2022
As the pandemic put paid to live entertainment, and lock-ins were swapped for lockdowns, it must have hit pint-pulling comedian The Pub Landlord extra hard.
But while Covid may have robbed fans of the chance to see Al Murray’s ale-loving alter-ego perform, the self-confessed history buff kept busy by penning a new book – The Last 100 Years (Give Or Take) And All That – as well as a plethora of fresh material.
Back on the road with his new tour, ‘Gig For Victory’, Al is inviting fans to join him for a “lock-in” as he mulls over the events of the past few years. And I, for one, can’t wait to hear what he has to say.
York’s Grand Opera House is packed to the rafters as my dad and I navigate the crowd to find our places. A broken seat on our row delays the show slightly, as staff work quickly to resolve the issue. Thirsty for a laugh, the hold up only adds to the buzz in the room, and it’s not long until the main man steps out on stage.
Unlike many big-name comedians, Al doesn’t bother with a support act. Instead fans get exactly what they came for.
As the lights dim and the sound of an air raid siren fills the room, it’s immediately clear what Al’s take is on the pandemic. As far as he’s concerned, Covid was “our Blitz”.
Sporting a bald head as he takes on his Pub Landlord persona, Al dons his trademark blazer, shirt and tie as he struts over to his on-stage bar, to huge applause. While messily pulling pints and lacing them with anti-bac gel, Al wastes no time in congratulating the room for being survivors of Covid.
“Master of improvisation”
Audience interaction features in many stand-up shows, but probably none more so than The Pub Landlord’s. We are his punters, after all.
Sloshing beer over the crowd, Al wastes no time in befriending and belittling fans. Those in the front few rows are, of course, prime targets for his mockery, but no one is safe – he even preys on two unsuspecting couples high up in the theatre’s boxes.
Quizzing the unfortunate folk on their occupations, you can sense their nervousness as they brace themselves for a barrage of insults. You really don’t want to be picked on if, say, you’re an endoscopy nurse, as one fellow theatre-goer discovered. The laughs came in thick and fast as the poor guy was, quite literally, the butt of the joke.
Integrating the crowd into the show is all part of the fun and keeps things fresh. The no-nonsense comedian is a master of improvisation, working the room with ease.
A force to be reckoned with, the outspoken stand-up publicly shames one poor bloke for nipping to the loo during his set. Keen to avoid the same humiliation, I sit crossed-legged, patiently waiting for the interval and regretting supping so much water!
The second half kicks off with a polite reminder from Al not to take photos or record during his performance. Instead, he offers a photo op for fans to take a few snaps.
More comic improv follows, along with scripted material that is equally as hilarious. Recounting his experience of lockdown, Al pokes fun at how we all came together as a nation to do the right thing – absolutely nothing! Comparing the experience to that of our grandparents’ generation brings plenty of chuckles – we’ve made history and have a great story to “bore the grandkids with”, he jokes.
With a set so jam-packed with audience interaction, no two nights of The Pub Landlord’s latest tour will be the same. But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, each one will be a barrel of laughs.