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Alexei Sayle review at Queen Elizabeth Hall London

Seventeen years since his last live appearances, author Alexei Sayle’s return to stand-up is gathering momentum.

Already his comeback is looking more sprightly since his run at the Soho Theatre earlier this year and Edinburgh Festival Fringe dates and a national tour now lie ahead of the 60-year old Liverpudlian, who these days sports a look of Papa Smurf – if Papa Smurf had been a mod.

Sayle was nudged back toward live performing by Stewart Lee, and Lee’s influence is perceptible on some routines tonight including a fantasy of stitching up Boris Johnson.

Whatever the stylistic origins of some of the jokes, Sayle has plenty of material to choose from. He ranges over two decades in which politics has re-aligned and comedy, by contrast, has fanned out into a multi-layered business – cue a rather uncharitable impression of a mincing, penguin-like Michael McIntyre. Mind you, contemporary Ben Elton fares little better, with Sayle delighting in the panning of his recent sitcom, The Wright Way.

Despatching comedians and the odd politician, Sayle is on sprightly form, working up a sweat and even doing little mimes away from the microphone to animate his gags further.

He’s arguably at his best when he is talking about his family background in a “part Jewish, atheist, communist” household and sharing anecdotes from his career, such as his literary agent’s scholarly attitude towards pass codes. These passages are more successful to those where he appears to manufacture ire.

Despite some engineered friction Sayle shows that he has enough genuine passion to make the jump back from the page to the stage.

Production Information

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, July 4, then touring until November 9

Alexei Sayle
Alexei Sayle
David Johnson, John Mackay, Soho Theatre
Cast includes
Alexei Sayle, Robin Ince (support)
Running time