Eden Court, Inverness
Saturday, March 17 (8pm)
A lot of people have opinions about Alex Salmond.
To his ardent fans, the former First Minister is the political behemoth who dragged Scottish nationalism from the fringes of politics and made it a palatable and even desirable ideal. To his detractors, he is a snake-oil salesman who nearly broke the country in half to satiate his own ego.
Rather than put this argument conclusively to bed, I suspect that Alex Salmond Unleashed – finally making its bow at Eden Court after being postponed by the Beast from the East – will simply entrench both sides further in their opinions.
This is a night rich in red meat for the faithful. It’s a night where Alex showcases a warmth and charm as he speaks with Kenny MacAskill – a last minute special guest after Dougie MacLean pulled out two days before the show with flu – about their memories of Jimmy Reid, and more than a bit of nerves as he joins singer Sheena Wellington for a trembling rendition of The Four Marys.
It’s also a night, however, where he bats away the swirling maelstrom over the Salisbury poisoning linked with Russia with a typical politician’s slickness, while launching consistent attacks on the “mainstream media” and the BBC that would only serve to confirm people’s opinions of him – regardless of which side those opinions fall.
However, as a night of entertainment it certainly had something for everyone. Between the songs, the sketches – Alex revives his Reverend IM Jolly tribute, delivering fitfully droll witticisms under the spotlight as cameraphones excitedly flash around the theatre – and the sofa-chats, there’s something of the old variety shows about this whole evening.
And the night really comes alive when comedy guest Janey Godley’s on stage. One of Scotland’s most highly-regarded stand-up performers, her screamingly funny first-half voiceover of political figures (with a voice for Ruth Davidson that, even charitably, could only be described as paint-thinner) and brilliantly observed comedy set opening the second half showcased why she’s considered something of a legend.
And her time on the couch with Alex offered a thoughtful and unexpected – but very much welcome – look at her work, particularly at the lack of representation for Scottish, working class women on television.
It’s also in these moments where Alex is at his best as a pure entertainer as he gently nudges his guests and converses with them. I think it’s fair to say that the choice of guests are fairly safe – staunch pro-Yes comedian Janey Godley and former SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill do not invite hopes for a Frost/Nixon experience.
Yet this is light entertainment Alex is aiming to offer up for the most part – the night is billed as a “festival of fun, friends and freedom” after all. And – while this line would be a cop-out for pretty much any other event that didn’t involve one of the most controversial political figures of modern Scottish history – if you’re a fan already then there was plenty to enjoy here.
What did you think? Comment below or tweet Kyle: @spp_kwalker