Review: Basil Brush – Unleashed at Underbelly

The voice is different. The laugh is different. But then we’ve all changed a bit in fifty years. This hour in the company of Basil and his new Mr – Mr Martin – is sweet and funny and just naughty enough to give the grown-ups a proper laugh without damaging the Brush image.

If the banter between Basil and his Mr were any more camp they would have to hold the show down with guy ropes, but it really works and actually helps to make the show, and Basil, more ‘now’. Mr Martin, explains Basil at one point, has been away from his husband for a month and is pining.

The hour is nicely varied : we get songs (one impressive patter song, an opener and a fabulous Elton John medley at the end), a couple of celebrity guests, including Hugh Bonneville by satellite from Marrakesh, a gunky game show and a dramatisation of Basil’s new favourite novel, starring members of the audience. There is also just enough knowing reference to Basil’s identifying as a puppet, and to the bloke under the desk, to make it ‘adult’ without destroying the fantasy.

The relationship between Mr Martin and ‘Basil’ is a lot of fun in the grown up version, and I’m sure there is room for more off-the-cuff interplay the longer the show runs. The audience absolutely loves every raucous laugh and each ‘boom boom’, and it’s sweet to see the participants in the games shake Basil’s paw and try and peek behind the desk like naughty kids.

It’s a brilliant idea on many levels, to take an iconic figure from the childhood of several generations and let him grow up, and this show works on all those levels. We all need a bit of silly, fox-based make-believe in our lives and Basil delivers that beautifully.

Basil Brush: Unleashed, Underbelly Bristo Square, 31 Jul – 25 Aug, 6.45pm

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