EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: TONY SLATTERY: SLATTERY WILL GET YOU NOWHERE, The Stand
I'm 26, and my introduction to Whose Line is it Anyway? only happened this year, thanks to the wonders of 4oD.
I'd never seen anything like Tony Slattery: a lightning-quick, confident improviser, but with this edge of modesty that omitted the assuredness he exuded when performing.
There was something endearing about him. I obsessively researched him after watching the first episode. An Olivier-nominated actor, a firm favourite in the Whose Line is it? line-up, working-class, Cambridge educated, ex-Footlights members (alongside Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry). An all-round talent. According to Wikipedia, he would be 59. But there wasn't much to be found about his whereabouts.
Then, in April, the Guardian ran a piece on Slattery. Hadley Freeman wrote a painfully exposing write-up: an interview with the comedian, documenting the addictions and bipolar disorder that stopped his career in its tracks in the late 1990s. She described him as a "lost, anxious teddy bear".
For me, a newfound admirer of Slattery, it felt like an odd time to launch my fandom, just as he was making his comeback.
I was hellbent on approaching his Fringe show with a clean slate. It felt like Tony deserved a chance to flex his comedy muscles again, without the weight of his recent media coverage weighing him down.
He is questioned by his dear friend Robert Ross, which prompts long, unpredictable, anecdotes from Tony. His charisma is untameable, though, and Ross struggles to successfully wrestle the format into shape. Which is endlessly amusing.
Slattery, unbounded, covers a lot of ground. It's a manic mash-up of memories from his career - from what it's like to get back on stage with his Whose Line is it Anyway? comrades, to his disastrous spell as an Olivier Awards presenter, where he called a leading theatre critic a VERY bad word (the worst one), which led to the loss of his agent.
He's still quick, still monstrously endearing, still glittery-eyed. It's a pleasure to watch him.
Robert brings it around to talking about the Guardian article, and Tony's mental health. It's difficult to watch, but it'll do a lot of good in adding to public discourse around mental health. Slattery was known, in the past, for being private. It's a generous, moving thing to watch someone open up so publicly.
It does, though, mean that the hour treads a lot of the same territory as the Guardian article: it prompts a lot of the same anecdotes from Slattery. It's still fascinating, upsetting, and another vital tale to help make bipolar less stigmatised in the mainstream.
An audience doesn't always need structure: If you have Tony Slattery delivering a mad monologue, covering a thousand topics in just 60 minutes, we'll keep up.
This man is, and always will be, an unpredictable virtuoso of comedy.
Tony Slattery: Slattery Will Get You Nowhere is at The Stand Comedy Club until 25 August