Review: Cherie - My Struggle
Image courtesy Lumbago Theatre Co
A new political comedy, direct from Edinburgh.
'Cherie My Struggle' is an intimate, gossipy memoir recounting Cherie Blair's amazing journey from an obscure Liverpool convent to the epicentre of power in Westminster.
Cherie spills the beans on the New Labour years and delivers her uncensored thoughts about Alistair Campbell, Carole Caplin, John Smith, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, the Queen, Princess Anne, Margaret Thatcher & Gordon Brown.
The 'Cherie' referred to in the title of this short monologue is none other than Cherie Blair, the famous wife of one of our longest-serving Prime Ministers.
Ms Blair is also known as Cherie Booth especially in her professional capacity as a barrister (and Queen's Counsel).
The problem with famous people is that many of the theatre-going public already know quite a lot about them - or at least some of us do.
In the case of Cherie Blair, after 10 years living above the (political) shop in Downing Street, much of her personal and public history is pretty well-known.
Now that makes the task of creating a compelling play about her rather difficult - unless you have some insider knowledge that you can sneak out of the political closet to provide riveting revelations and insights.
But Cherie: My Struggle offers almost no insider detail or any particular surprises nor even an odd slug or two of juicy tittle-tattle.
Mary Ryder, in commendable form, sets a brisk pace, presenting a rather determined and confident Cherie who is obviously no-one's fool, in spite of her humble upbringing in Crosby.
Ms Blair's parents were actually both actors - Gale Howard and Tony Booth.
The latter was best known for his role in the BBC's Till Death Us Do Part, which aired between 1965 and 1975.
But he left the family in 1961 leaving Cherie to be brought up by her mother and grandmother.
Cherie Blair showed exceptional promise as a student gaining not only a string of A grades at O and A level, but also managing to secure a place at the prestigious London School of Economics to take a law degree.
A successful career as a barrister followed during which she met and married the future Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
The usual suspects fetch up during proceedings - the "power obsessed" and "petulant" Gordon Brown and Tony Blair's abrasive strategist and communications director, Alastair Campbell.
But what we hear about these formidable characters is nothing new and their appearances are fleeting.
There's also nothing new in the tale about the Blairs' visit to the Queen's Scottish residence, Balmoral, where the PM's wife was expected to wash up!
The title lends ambiguity to this monologue - is it describing Cherie's struggle to get something, or her struggle against or to survive something?
Sadly, the narrative fails to make clear just what she was actually struggling about, though we do hear her complain about her portrayal by the press who seemed to harbour some animosity towards her, perhaps with the intent to belittle or deride her.
There's another odd feature about the title since it employs the same phrase as Adolph Hitler's book 'Mein Kampf' (which translates as 'My Struggle' or 'My Fight').
Co-incidence or intentional?
I can't help thinking that it was a deliberate choice - perhaps more of a marketing ploy than anything else.
In fact, I thought the show was going to be a political or personal satire but, as it stands, it's actually a pretty straight kind of biography, lacking biting humour and offering little else than you might be able to dig-up for yourself pretty easily - or you may already know.
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