“This is pantomime, this is Butlin’s, this is the kid’s entertainer you wished you had at your birthday, this works because we know it and love it. It is part of our heritage.”
A long time ago I was involved in the Scottish student debating circuit. That could be a genuine contender for the sentence most likely to lose friends and alienate people. The only reason I raise this terrifying prospect is that I have fond memories of the debating union at Edinburgh and it is always a trip down nostalgia lane to find myself at the top of Teviot (or the Gilded Balloon as many of you will know it).
And so it was on Saturday that the youngest and I found ourselves in that grand old hall where so many great debaters have cut their teeth… to see Basil Brush.
She had been keen to see Basil purely because of his posters around town. Upon interrogation, it became clear that this legend of British kids’ TV is unknown to the young team. Other than the image from the poster she had no concept at all of Basil. She had not seen him on TV. She did not even – God help us all – know his catchphrase. What do they teach them in schools these days? I sat and wondered: is she going to enjoy this? Or am I going to spend the show saying ‘not too much longer, darling’ as I threw Jaffa Cakes at her to keep her schtum?
I need not have worried. There’s a reason the fox has been around so long, after all. Now striding into his sixth decade he knows what is what and how to make a group of kids giggle.
Brush’s sidekick, Britain’s Got Talent’s Mr Martin, walks on stage and kicks it all off. Good as he is we are here to see the Grand Old Fox and soon enough the great one joins us.
Over the next forty-five mins – the perfect length for a kids’ show as it happens… other shows please take note – a hugely interactive show dazzles us. At every point the audience is asked to do something – sing, dance, cower from a water pistol, shout, clap, Mexican Wave, or wave our arms about. It might not seem sophisticated but, ultimately, it is a puppet (sorry to destroy illusions but we value brutal honesty here at GetYourCoatsOn). The duo need to work hard to get the audience onside and they do from the off: always involving us and always changing up how we are involved.
A mix of rude jokes (mostly fart-based but not exclusively… my youngster enjoyed one that was cut off by Mr Martin as she guessed the next word), disco sets to dance along with, Mr Martin with his Super Soaker and focusing on a pensioner with an umbrella, magic tricks, and – in one indescribable sequence – a visit from a flatulent Princess Elsa all land well with the kids. Two didn’t: the PANTS Alexa gag was grand enough but went on too long and the three envelopes gag was clever but well over the head of the kids.
But there is no need to overanalyse sunlit genius or quibble too much. No. This is old-school fun. Many of us have seen it all before. Indeed, that’s the point. We love it because we have seen it before. This is pantomime. This is Butlin’s. This is the kid’s entertainer you wished you had at your birthday. This works because we know it and love it. It is part of our heritage. It is part of us.
There’s a reason that the disco section included Baby Shark and YMCA because this show is for everyone. I couldn’t help but notice the granny at the end of our row was dancing away to Agadoo and the mum in front of us was doubled over laughing at the farting Elsa.
The sort of old-school silly fun that is easy to sneer at but hard to do and ultimately the kids all walk off smiling having had a grand 45 minutes, a signed photo and a selfie with a comedy legend. Ultimately, there’s not much more you can ask for?
So come for the gags, stay for the Boom Booms, and leave with the feeling of having bathed in nostalgia. Get your foxiest coats on and go see this! For those who want things a little foxier Basil has an adult show at 6.30pm (unleashed and uncut… for the rest of the Fringe).