Andrew Abbott's Blog

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Life. A game of two halves.

Michael Portillo at the New Theatre Royal.

As we all know it’s not new and the audience certainly wasn’t, in fact we felt quite youthful as our fellow Portillo fans creaked up the stairs of Lincoln’s theatrical gem, the Theatre Royal. Appropriately for a predominantly football blog the talk was entitled a game of two halves but it wasn’t about football at all but the career of Michael Portillo, formerly a senior member of the Conservative Government who entertained those of us sufficiently interested in politics when his career spectacularly nosedived and fatally crashed on live TV and he was exposed to the full titillation of an audience of millions as he was ejected from politics in the night of the long knives. Think football can be a bit of a rough house? Politics is brutal.

Undaunted and still a relatively young man Portillo continued his career combining his historical background with a love of railways and reinvented himself as a TV presenter. His Great Railway Journeys amongst other railway orientated interests and political punditry on late night BBC 1 prompted a nationwide speaking tour of which Lincoln was the latest stop.

Portillo surprised me with his easy manner and evident stand up skills as he kept his audience enraptured with insider tales displaying timing that a lot of comics would be proud of and a genuine rapport with the packed audience at the old theatre. A sprinkling of surprisingly well told jokes and quite rude patter gave the assembled oldies the feel of a late night review rather than a political chat.

The mood altered as Portillo described his metamorphosis into a railway anorak and he displayed a considerable knowledge of both the political situation and state of the railways as he effortlessly moved on to the question and answer session. No questioner, and there were some good ones from the audience, was denied an answer as he moved from the rails to brexit and beyond.

The assembled throng disappeared into the night for a welcome cool off in the evening air, the theatre session being both warm work and really quite intense but it’s unlikely the Lincolnshire audience for Great British Railway Journeys, Great Continental Railway Journeys and Great American Railroad Journeys will diminish after this show, he certainly left his audience wanting more.

Whether they’ll be able to stay up for This Week, BBC 1 11.45 Thursdays is a different matter. There’s always catch up or the iplayer.

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