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Thursday, 1 August, 2002, 08:18 GMT 09:18 UK
Brandreth's festival countdown
Gyles Brandeth
Brandreth is a huge fan of musical theatre

Characters rarely come as colourful as broadcaster, writer and former MP Gyles Brandreth.

Few will have forgotten how, throughout the 1980s, he dazzled viewers to Countdown and TV Am with his spectacular wardrobe of vibrant jumpers.

Now, though the knitwear has gone - sold off for charity or relegated to a museum display - Brandreth is out to blind audiences at the Fringe with his show Zipp!


If you love musicals you can get them all at once and if you hate them, you will never have to go again

Gyles Brandreth on Zipp!

As its name suggests, Zipp! does not mess about. Brandreth's creation - devised and written by him - is a breakneck journey through the history of musical theatre.

The show is only 90 minutes long and, explains Brandreth: "We are the Ryanair of musical theatre.

"We give no thrills, we don't always start on time but we aim to give you 100 shows and if we fail to do so you get your money back."

Value

Zipp! starts in 1900 when the big Broadway and West End hit was Flora. It ends up to date with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Bombay Dreams.

It takes individual songs and characters from the works of great composers, such as Gershwin and Lloyd Webber, and follows a theatre group as it prepares and puts on a show.

Gyles Brandreth in Zipp!
Brandreth dares audiences to let him do The Full Monty

At a certain point, the audience can choose which way the story goes. Either the girls perform a song from Hair! or Brandreth does his version of The Full Monty.

Brandreth's aim with Zipp! is both self-indulgent and altruistic.

"I love musical theatre but I resent spending 40 on a seat when all you do is come away whistling the scenery," he says.

"I thought I would try to give people a complete evening of musicals for less than the price of one normal ticket.

"If you love musicals you can get them all at once. If you hate them, you will never have to go again."

Kiss Me Kate
Kiss Me Kate is one of Brandreth's favourite shows

Brandreth also wanted to explore the "DNA of musical theatre, the ingredients that make a great show".

Brandreth concludes that the best - among which he counts Kiss Me Kate and My Fair Lady - have at least six showstopping songs.

"The moment you hear the tune you think of the words and vice versa," Brandreth explains.

Zipp! features the flop productions as well as the hits, but Brandreth manages to unearth at least one great song from these disaster shows.

Training

The first musical Brandreth saw was Salad Days, as a little boy. His favourite is My Fair Lady.

The worst he has sat through is Carrie, based on the novel by horror writer Stephen King.

"The girl in the show spends most of the time doused in pig's blood - it's not a turn on. It cost $7m but opened and closed in virtually the same week," he recalls.


There couldn't be better training for the stage because you become used to audiences walking out, being heckled and having things thrown at you

Gyles Brandreth on life as an MP

Yet, no matter how appalling a production, Brandreth is adamant he would never walk out.

And if Edinburgh audiences desert Zipp's! auditorium, Brandreth says his former career as a Conservative MP will help.

"There couldn't be better training for the stage because you become used to audiences walking out, being heckled and having things thrown at you."

Trademark

He became an MP in 1990, fulfilling one of many long-held ambitions. He gave it up with the fall of the Tory government in 1997.

Richard Whiteley and Carole Vorderman r
Richard Whiteley and Carole Vorderman remain Countdown fixtures

Since then, he has written a novel, founded the national Scrabble championships, opened a teddy bear museum in Stratford-upon-Avon and currently has jobs on Radio 4 and the Sunday Telegraph.

And Brandreth says is not done yet.

Besides performing Zipp!, he plans an autumn stint on Countdown, but this time he will be more soberly attired.

"I will be coming back - but without the jumpers," he says.

"They were my trademark, but I began to find them embarrassing - and my wife was always deeply insulted when people asked her if she made them."

Coverage of the 2002 Edinburgh Festival from BBC News Online

The buzz

In focus

Fringe diarists

REVIEWS

AROUND THE BBC

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Fireworks at the Palace

Edinburgh festival


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19 Feb 99 | Entertainment
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