During the October general election of 1974 a teenaged Steve Richards turned down a friend’s spare ticket to see David Bowie. Steve had a prior engagement. He was on his way to Stevenage to watch Harold Wilson deliver a speech. It was to be a singular milestone in the progress of a life and career spent reporting and analysing the British political scene. Rock N Roll Politics is the distillation of that experience into a Fringe stand-up style performance.
Richards’ is a familiar face, if not quite a household name. The current columnist for The Independent opens by recounting how for a period he spent his Sundays doing the rounds on a succession of politically-themed radio and television programmes - hours of work which, he is certain, next to no-one actually watched. This is the underlying theme of Rock N Roll Politics, the inflated sense of importance and impotence felt in equal measure by pols and pundits alike. Richards’ broadcasting background makes his an easy and often stylish presence on stage. His material is not a rapid succession of jokes but it is well pitched, humorous and insightful - it is a pleasure to hear him speak. But - an hour is a long time in politics. The show would benefit from a format tweak such as the inclusion of a guest. The audience Q&A threw up some interesting items at the end but did not contribute greatly to the show.
This is a show, indeed a genre of show, for which I hope the audience will grow. At a time when public outrage and displeasure with those from the world of journalism is growing, here is a seasoned political reporter telling it like it is. Others should follow where Richards is leading. When ever more young comics are trotting onto stage with nothing but hackneyed pseudo-banter (what is it you do?) or uninteresting self-analysis (like they’re are the only person ever to have a 2 year old, or to feel aged before their time), Richards is a breath of fresh air - someone with something to say and the charm to say it well. It’s non-threatening but neither is it edgeless.
Richards assures us that the material for his show is changing daily. Personally, I am sceptical that in the current format there would be enough of a departure to justify a daily return visit.
Richards has a great audience. Not a heckler or a crazy in sight. A set as good as this doesn’t need that kind of tomfoolery. Yes, Richards’ audience is mostly made up of Guardian clutching pre-digital lefties with the unhealthy notion that government is meant to do something other than fill out the 24-hour news cycle between Olympics but then some of my best parents are Guardian clutching lefties and they would love this show.
Reviewed by Dan Lentell 14th August 2012