Impressionist makes secretive showbiz return: Yarwood is Royal Variety's surprise star

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MIKE YARWOOD, the impressionist who possibly suffered more from the Thatcher years than any other citizen, has made a traditional showbiz comeback after three years of appearing at corporate dinners and other private functions.

The 53-year-old former television regular - who not only lost his main source of material when Britain elected a woman prime minister, but in the late Eighties suffered from alcoholism, stage fright after collapsing on stage, a marriage breakdown and a heart attack - was the surprise turn at the Royal Variety Performance at the Dominion Theatre in London on Monday night.

Other stars had been sworn to secrecy about his appearance and he did not even attend rehearsals for the show, which will be shown on television on Saturday.

But his five-minute impression of John Major achieved every comic's Royal Variety dream, making the Queen laugh.

Bearing in mind the jokes Yarwood told, this demonstrated a healthy sense of self-mockery by the Queen. In the Prime Minister's voice, Yarwood said: 'I visit Buckingham Palace once a week for my audience with the Queen and it's pounds 8 well spent, I can tell you.'

The laughter was a little slow in coming for that one, from an audience who had clearly not taken the palace tour, but there was no problem with the next gag.

'I also visit her at Windsor Castle,' he said, 'and we get on like a house on fire.'

Mike Yarwood's agent, Clifford Elson, said yesterday: 'Mike was thrilled to be doing the Royal Variety Performance. He lost his TV series a few years ago and it's well known that he had a heart attack and was visiting Alcoholics Anonymous. Now this is the start of something new. He would be more than happy to have a new TV series . . . viewers still look

on Mike Yarwood as the


Yarwood, who appeared immediately after a film of the real John Major visiting a home for retired variety artists, said yesterday: 'I am working on some new ideas for television but it remains to be seen what happens.

'To be honest, it is the first time I have done John Major for about three years and I was very nervous. The fact that I appeared immediately after a film of John Major unnerved me even more because it was a bit like hanging the fake painting alongside the original.'

There was also an emotional return at the show for Leslie Crowther, the television star who nearly died in a road accident a year ago. He still looked frail when he came on stage, but did a three-minute routine.

(Photograph omitted)