Tony’s Last Tape, Theatre Review. Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *

Cast: Philip Bretherton.

A national treasure, the most dangerous man in Britain, a true orator, an elder statesman, a cult figure within the political establishment and one for whom the cause, no matter the size, was just and worth fighting for; a true leader of a party that feared him and yet his legacy has lasted longer than any of his fellow Government members or party followers; Tony Benn was arguably the most forward thinking member of Government and the opposition during his incredible tenure in the House of Commons and yet he left so much more to history than can be described adequately in a mere discussion, it needs to be recorded for posterity.

Andy Barrett’s superbly revealing, enlightening and often poignant and funny play Tony’s Last Tape sees the incomparable Philip Bretherton take on the role of Tony Benn, a last night alone with his multitude of recording devices, a lifetime of memories and written words surrounding him and the threat of it culminating one late night, it is the perfect marriage of words, direction and astonishing acting that makes this play such an absolute delight to witness unfold before you.

Philip Bretherton has for many years entranced television and theatre goers alike, his understated charm, the ability to hold the attention of audience without ever leaving the modesty of spirit he has shown throughout his career, the absolute unpretentious of faith, all of these marvellous and enjoyable characteristics have built the foundation for this, arguably his finest and most discerning role of his life.

To capture a man of history, especially someone who held so steadfast to his beliefs throughout his life, is to be recognised as something truly remarkable and that is exactly what Mr. Bretherton produces, something utterly outstanding. To anyone who either had the honour of meeting Tony Benn or heard him talk at innumerable rallies or on the lecture circuit, this was a sensitive, amusing and incredibly accurate portrayal of the man, of the politician, of the keeper of a million thoughts and Mr. Bretherton must be congratulated for bringing the memory back to life with the same absolute integrity that the man himself offered each and every day.

A remarkable story, in a world of political pygmies, in the cut and thrust of banality and the beige, there will always be room for one of the best to ever step into Parliament, Tony’s Last Tape is a testament to that memory.

Ian D. Hall