REVIEW: Brian Blessed. Alive Corn Exchange, King's Lynn
The phrase 'larger than life' was made for Brian Blessed.
The veteran British actor, never one for being shy and retiring, is much loved for his over-the-top appearances on film and television – think King Richard IV from Black Adder (and Z Cars as Fancy Smith, for older readers). And anyone who missed his legendary stint guest-hosting on Have I Got News For You, please YouTube it now!
But there's more to him that just a booming voice – he's climbed Everest and Kilimanjaro, among other feats, as the King's Lynn audience discovered.
And the venue should be renamed Gordon’s Alive Lynn Corn Exchange as the national treasure revealed those two words “Gordon’s Alive!” which his character Prince Vultan uttered from the Flash Gordon film are what people tend to stop and ask him to intone.
Describing himself as “50 per cent actor and 50 per cent explorer”, Blessed had just returned from a spell at the magnetic North Pole – the 82-year-old is the oldest man to have journeyed there.
The thespian recounted his earliest days, pointing out that his father was a miner who could recount Shakespeare, and fondly recalled he and his childhood friend Patrick Stewart’s joint quests to become actors and gain scholarships, no mean feat for working-class young Yorkshiremen in the 1950s.
Blessed ran past his National Service career, which included a stint in the stockade, then name-dropped a plethora of classic English acting and theatre collaborators such as Sir John Gielgud and Peter O’Toole, peppering his tales with fruity language but much charm.
While he initially burst onto the stage to the familiar bassline thuds of the Flash Gordon theme tune and was energy personified, the second half of the show began quiet and intense, as he recalled a touching episode with a parent and child while performing Cats in the West End.
Blessed was also passionate about people being themselves and following their dreams as well as stressing the arts are for all. He ended a fascinating night with a scatological tale of scaling Everest – apparently that’s the Queen’s favourite Blessed anecdote.
Overall, a royally-entertaining evening.