A People’s Guide To World Domination

Written and Performed by Neil Innes
Unity Theatre
Thursday 17th February 2011

Reviewed by Laura Naylor

Seeing Neil Innes’ musical and lyrical genius live at the Unity was an absolute delight. So much so that it was less like watching a performance and more like having a jam session with close friends. Innes kicked off the evening proclaiming that he was ‘ready to rock’ and, wearing his spangled jacket, you could believe this would be the case. Fortunately, the jacket was discarded within minutes but it remained in view serving as an echo of the showbiz cliché (darhlings!).

Innes admitted he’d been through the 60s once before and he was now going through them again; there was a definite element of nostalgia as he regaled tales of his times with The Bonzo Dog Band and The Rutles and, of course, Monty Python. The music was a mixture of songs which he’d either written or collaborated on with the aforementioned bands and also his more recent creations. He did indeed ‘guide’ us through the evening as he defined, with such literary flair as to be expected, exactly what each word of his performance title meant. A song about politics in this instance could not be avoided; aside from his little ditty ‘Where has all the money gone?’ a question we’ve all been asking, his song ‘Democracy’ inspires us to look out for one another: those who can’t help themselves, our children, and in particular those who aren’t good at anything, after all, we elected them to be our leaders!

The majority of the audience were certainly die-hard Python/Bonzo/Rutle fans but those unfamiliar were not to be excluded. We were, in fact, all initiated into becoming ‘Ego Warriors’ and to celebrate individuality. I’ve never been one to engage in audience participation - the idea of convincing a gaudily dressed man in drag that the perpetrator is indeed behind them just doesn’t appeal. That said it is hard not to get caught up in the moment and take part in band-shouts to the likes of ‘Run Away’, a song that didn’t make it into the final cut of Python’s Holy Grail (1975) and how often are you actually encouraged to indulge in immature behaviour so, when asked, of course I blew a huge raspberry.

Innes declared he’d ‘never done a slick show in my life and I don’t intend to start now’ and, certainly, the evening had none of the vacuous glamour that has been inflicted upon us by the likes of Simon Cowell. Instead, his mixture of pastiche and seriousness, from ‘Hehaw Hehaw’ sung by Jean-Paul Satire to the lamentable ‘Imitation Song’, provided a celebration of immaturity and the downright absurd. He is indeed the bad influence encouraging us to rebel in our own little way against the medium of mediocrity.

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