Al Murray: The Pub Landlord, Cambridge Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

Ten years on from his creation, Al Murray's Pub Landlord character continues to serve up "pints for the fellas and wine for ladies". Among this first-night audience were co-stars from Murray's most recent TV appearance, the Hell's Kitchen reality show: Gordon Ramsay, Edwina Currie, Matt Goss, Abi Titmuss and James Dreyfus. For once, Ramsay wasn't the man to dish out the abuse. This was Murray's gaff, his rules.

Ten years on from his creation, Al Murray's Pub Landlord character continues to serve up "pints for the fellas and wine for ladies". Among this first-night audience were co-stars from Murray's most recent TV appearance, the Hell's Kitchen reality show: Gordon Ramsay, Edwina Currie, Matt Goss, Abi Titmuss and James Dreyfus. For once, Ramsay wasn't the man to dish out the abuse. This was Murray's gaff, his rules.

Ignoring the celebrity element until the end of the show, Murray fed off the rest of the punters in trademark style, teasing them under the guise of explaining what their names meant in Anglo-Saxon. For example, an American lady named Bridget was told that her name translated into "unwelcome cousin". The Pub Landlord is a blunt man, and his gurning face, lurching frame and bellowing tone would be rather intimidating if it wasn't for a cheeky knowing smile.

There was no need for a mic to be attached to Murray: he comes over loud and clear, whether it be in putting down the French and the Scots or making lecherous advances to women with a Kenneth Connor-style lustful gurgle.

Murray's physical style filled the Cambridge Theatre, making it feel like a pub much more than any set backdrop could. As a performer who started out by mimicking the noises made by machines, guns and car boots, sound has remained an important physical tool for him. At various points during his act he rolls words around so much that they seem more like animal cries, echoing his character's woes with the world.

Though uncomfortable with homosexuality, disparaging of students and a bluff and gruff Little Englander, Murray's character doesn't stray into reactionary anti-hero territory. Yes, his tour around the globe (represented by an oversized beach ball) pokes fun at everyone else, including the Irish ("They're a sidecar to our motorbike, they're going nowhere without us") and the Swiss (like a flat that will never sell because the Austrians, Germans, French and Italians are neighbours) - but before the UK Independence Party think of booking him as an after-dinner act, they should hear what he has to say about Robert Kilroy-Silk. As for the special relationship between his beloved Britain and the United States, Murray doesn't stand on ceremony, suggesting that George Bush should be the man the Americans send to Mars.

With the show lasting almost to two-and-a-half hours, the evening had that lock-in feel to it: a privilege, even if maybe you had stayed a little too long. In his own words, he knows nothing about what he is saying but he is qualified to speak on it. Fortunately, the Pub Landlord is no bar bore.

27 June, 4 and 18 July (020-7494 5081); then touring ( www.publandlordlive.com)

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