Alistair McGowan at the Sundial Theatre in Cirencester tomorrow
ALISTAIR McGowan is the nation’s favourite impressionist. He has dazzled us for the past two decades with an unmatched repertoire of impersonations.
However, as the title of his new show underlines, he’s Not Just A Pretty Voice.
There’s far more to this comedian than an array of other people’s voices.
In the run-up to the tour, Alistair explains the thinking behind the title of the show, which is coming to the Sundial Theatre in Cirencester tomorrow night.
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“As well as hearing the first known impressions of Alan Shearer, Mickey Flanagan and Roger Federer, people will find out my views about a few things,” he says. “You can’t just do voices – you have to have something behind that which says something about them – and about you.”
It’s a pleasure to see Alistair on stage again. The comedian, who made four series of the Bafta-winning BBC1 show Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression has a terrific rapport with his audiences.
The critics have been rushing to heap praise on him. The Sunday Mirror describes his act as “wickedly funny mimicry.”
Thisisnottingham – the Echo and Citizen’s sister publication – declares “even if Alistair McGowan wasn’t an impressionist and stuck to stand-up gaggery, he’d surely be one of the best comics on the circuit. As it is, he gives us a double layer.”
In person, Alistair is just as funny. Witty, warm and wise, he’s eager to start touring.
“I’m very excited about it,” enthuses the Evesham-born comedian, who last summer wrote and presented ITV1’s sports-comedy show, You Cannot Be Serious!
“This is absolutely the best material I’ve done since I first ventured into a stand-up club some 24 years ago,” he says.
In those 24 years, he’s enjoyed success as an actor both on TV (he had a small part in Bleak House, a bigger one in Preston Front and took the lead role in BBC1’s Mayo) and on stage (Cabaret, The Mikado, Measure for Measure, Pygmalion and Little Shop of Horrors).
But for him, live comedy hard to beat.
“When you’re saying things you’ve written, that you find funny and audiences are laughing loudly, it’s the biggest buzz.”
He even likes the physical demands of touring.
“We live in a beautiful country and getting to see its hidden corners by touring is such a privilege,” he says.
“Sean Hughes gave me some good advice while I was killing myself doing six one-night shows a week on my last tour. He said, ‘Never do more than three shows a week, buddy. Give yourself time to enjoy it.’ So that’s what I’m doing.”
Not Just a Pretty Voice asks big questions like, would the world be a better place if Ed Miliband was Prime Minister? And is Hillary Devey Jesse J’s mum?
Be prepared to hear everyone from Andy Murray to Colin Murray, routines on everything from Jeff Stelling to bad spelling and at least one song about butter.
“There will be sections about feeling one’s age, the problems of having and not having children, plenty of puns and Roy Hodgson singing,” he says.
“If people laugh at an impression, it simply shows they’ve noticed something about a celebrity, but have never put it into words. I love watching people doing impressions. My fiancee does some really good ones. When she does a good Scarlett Johansson, I’ll marry her.
”Audiences appreciate the skill, the virtuosity [of switching between characters], but it has to be backed up with good material if it’s not just going to be showing-off.
“For instance, I’ve been trying to impersonate MP Diane Abbott, because she has a very unusual way of talking. But I can’t find the right routine for her yet. When I do, I will be childishly thrilled.”
Alistair stresses the simplicity of the show.
“I’ve never been wowed by technology. It’s just me and a microphone. There are no sets, no props, no projections. It’s all about trying to create different energies through one voice. I hope that by the end of the evening, the audience really feel that they have been in the presence of 90-odd, well-known characters and not just in the presence of a 48 year-old balding man from Worcestershire.”
He insists it’s all just a bit of a laugh.
“I’m not trying to bring the government down,” he says.
“I’ve never set out to do anything overtly political. Some reviewers have said my show doesn’t have the edge of Rory Bremner. But I’ve never wanted that. All I want to do is make audiences laugh.”
And that is something Alistair does as well as anyone. He’s on stage at 8pm. Tickets cost £15 from www.sundial-theatre.co.uk