Matt Forde, Brexit: Pursued by a Bear review, Soho Theatre: the comedian that the next Labour leader could learn a lot from

Asa Bennett
Single market silliness: Matt Forde has all the humour Labour lacks -

Politics is moving so fast that even the blurb for Matt Forde’s new stand-up comedy tour seems to be out of date, inviting those craving a chuckle to “join Britain’s leading political comedian as he once again promises his last show as an EU citizen (maybe).”

That last word may well have been apt in a hung parliament, but the stonking majority Boris Johnson won in last month’s election means there is no more “maybe” about Brexit. And so his latest tour, Brexit: Pursued By  A Bear, kicked off on Monday night at the Soho Theatre in a performance that ended up as a call to arms for the United Kingdom’s centrist dads.

Bewailing the election result as proof that “facts don’t matter anymore”, Forde leaves no party unscathed in his tour of the political landscape. As one might expect from a former Labour official, much ire is aimed at the Tories and Brexit, with the mere mention of Mark Francois’s name eliciting hisses from a few audience members in the front, and Forde later rounding off by opining about how “we are to defeat” the likes of Johnson and Donald Trump.

However, he has no love either for Jeremy Corbyn, proving himself to be much wittier than anyone you might hear on the Opposition benches as he sums up the election as a choice between a “populist racist Brexiteer... and Boris Johnson”. Lamenting Corbyn’s slowness at seizing the “opportunity” of a referendum, he cuttingly dismisses his approach as the equivalent of robbing both Peter and Paul “and then calling them both agents of Israel”.

It would be wrong, though, to assume his routine is just an hour of bile from a bitter old Blairite, as Forde shows an indefatigable love of politics in his eagerness to deconstruct key election moments (such as Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Neil) and his spot-on impressions.

Matt Forde Credit: Dominic Marley

He takes on big names like Trump, Corbyn and Johnson, bringing to life the Prime Minister’s verbal tics so effortlessly that he could get his audience cackling with the lightest Borisian burble. He daringly imitates lesser figures such as Richard Burgon, revealing how surprisingly camp the arch-Corbynista is, and takes apart Rorymania by showing how Rory Stewart’s slow delivery could make even a description of how to pour a glass of water seem the height of profundity.

The freak moment when one of his impressions went awry on Monday (his take on the Paisley-born Andrew Neil struggled to escape Belfast in accent) was nevertheless further proof of his confidence on stage – he still kept the audience with him through his mimetic mishap.

Forde’s hour-long routine is jam-packed with crisply comedic analysis and uncanny mimicry, although at times it feels as if you’re listening to Tony Blair’s cheeky younger brother. It is safe to say more than 48 per cent of his Monday-night audience were Remainers, but he offers much for Brexiteers to enjoy too. If Labour’s next leader wants to reconnect with the party’s lost voters, they need to bring back Forde and learn how to deliver their shtick with his charm and humour.

At Soho Theatre until January 25, then touring. Details: