Gyles Brandreth, wit and word-meister, former MP and star of Just A Minute, The One Show, QI, Have I Got News For You and Room 101, will be taking his new show Word Power!, an uproarious magic carpet ride around the world of the English language, on a UK tour from the 2nd April – 18th July 2016. Gyles will be coming to the Maltings on Sat 16 April, book tickets here.
‘Wildly funny, incredibly indiscreet’ Daily Mail
‘Very funny’ The Sunday Times
‘You will emerge very happy to have spent an hour in the company of the estimable Mr.B’ Daily Telegraph
What can audiences expect from your ‘Word Power’ show?
A two-hour show that takes you on a roller-coaster ride around the amazing world of words. It’s a show that should make you laugh and might even make you cry. It’s based around my lifelong love of words and includes stories from my life in the theatre and politics. It’s a show for people who love live theatre and who enjoy listening to Just A Minute or watching QI.
What do you love about the English language?
Everything! English is the richest language in the world. There are 500,000 words in the English dictionary. The unfortunate French only have 100,000 words in their vocabulary – and that includes “le weekend”. Language is what makes us human. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor but honest. Only words can do that.”
What is your favourite word and why?
My favourite word changes from day to day. I’m currently rather liking the word YEX. It’s an old word for a HICCUP and it’s very useful for playing Scrabble. I’m enjoying another old word at the moment, too. To SQUIDDLE is to waste time in idle talk. I do quite a bit of that.
How do you usually go about developing a new show?
I was an MP – until the people spoke. When I lost my seat, I wondered what to do next. Someone suggested I take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe. I did. And I was very lucky. The show won awards and five star reviews. Since then I have taken three more shows to Edinburgh and I’ve been just as lucky with them. I try to create a show about a subject I love and that I think will interest and amuse people. My Word Power! show is my favourite so far.
Are there any particular places/regions you always like to take your shows to?
I go where they’ll have me! No, seriously, I love touring the length and breadth of the UK. As anyone who follows me on Twitter – @GylesB1 – will know, as a reporter for The One Show on BBC1 I am out and about and all over the country all the time. I have literally been from Land’s End to John O’Groats. With a stage show I love to go to beautiful theatres in places I know (like the Swansea Grand or the Richmond Theatre) – I love going to theatres with a history and heritage. In this show I tell some stories about great actors of the past and their amazing way with words, so it’s exciting to be appearing in the sorts of theatres they appeared in. My wife was born in Wales; my parents and grandparents came from Lancashire and Cheshire; my teddy bear collection is soon moving to Newby Hall in North Yorkshire – so really wherever I go I’m happy to be. What I really like is a town where I can get a nice cup of tea and a toasted tea-cake before the show.
What is your favourite English accent?
I love the variety of accents we have in the British Isles. Just to be difficult, I rather like a Brummie accent. I don’t mind what the accent is, so long as whoever is speaking can be understood. I can’t stand mumbling. These days on TV I often find myself watching the TV with the subtitles so I can follow what’s going on.
In September last year, you ran a ‘Just A Minute’ challenge at the Radio Times Festival, exclusively for children to take part in, to encourage more varied language use. Are children’s vocabularies shrinking?
There are 500,000 words in the English dictionary, but William Shakespeare managed to write all his plays only using 26,000 words, so it’s not the number of words you know it’s the way you use them that counts. I’m encouraging young people to learn new words, to extend their vocabularies and to have fun with language. Language is power. The more clearly you can express yourself the better you will get on in life.
What can you tell us about your book ‘Word Play’ and how does it tie in with this show?
I love puns and palindromes and anagrams and word play of every kind. I love asking people to take the word MONDAY and rearrange the letters in MONDAY to form another everyday English word . . . and then seeing how long it takes them to come up with DYNAMO. Word Play is a book that contains all the fun and funny and fantastic things I’ve learnt about our language in my lifetime. After the show, I always stay to meet the audience in the foyer or the bar after the show and if anyone fancies a copy of the book I sign it for them.
Should we be worried about the impact of the internet and mobile technology on the English Language?
No! The English language is rich because it isn’t pure. New words are arriving all the time and lots of them have come along with new technology. I like acronyms like YOLO. I like fun abbreviations. RIDIC is a bit ridiculous, but why not? I love new words. Do you ever MOSH? (I do!) Of course, there are dangers in the brave new world of texting . . . and some of the funny ones feature in Word Power!
Do you think the English language will be as important a language in 100 years’ time?
Yes! English is getting more and more important every year. English is now truly the lingua franca of the world. More people are speaking English than ever before. We are so blessed that our language, English, is the world’s language! Word Power! Truly: get it, use it, conquer the world!
You were the MP for Chester from 1992 – 1997 but have spoken out about MPs’ use of clichés. What is it about politicians’ use of language that you dislike?
I don’t like ANYONE using cliches because clichés are lazy. During the last election I thought I’d go mad if I heard another politician talking about ‘hard working families’. I like language that is fresh and surprising. The word ICONIC is overused. The word PASSIONATE is overused. I passed a white van today. On the side it said: ‘Passionate about plumbing.’ Please!
Who is your linguistic hero?
William Shakespeare. He died 400 years ago this year, but he is one of the reasons that English is the world’s richest and most wonderful language. Until Shakespeare came along, the English language lacked EXCITEMENT. Yes, Shakespeare invented the word – along with more than a thousand others. It appears first in his play, Hamlet. (When I was a young actor, I played Hamlet once – not every successfully. The audience threw eggs at me. I went on as Hamlet, came off as omelette.)
You recently met Miley Cyrus. Where did you meet her and what did you tell her about ‘twerking’?
I met Miley in a lift at the BBC. She is famous for her ‘twerking’. She seemed to think she had invented the word. I told her TWERKING was what’s known as a “portmanteau” word, combining two words in one, and has been around since the early 1800s. It’s a mix of TWIST and JERK. She kindly said she’d come to see my WORD POWER show so if you come look out for Miley. You may be there on the same night.
If you could give your 25 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Live in the moment. Relish the here and now. You only get today once, so make the most of it.
It’s the advice I was given when I was 25. My father passed on to me the words of a great American playwright, William Saroyan:
‘Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.’
Living in the moment is why I love live theatre. It’s only happening here and now – tonight.
With my Word Power! show, I hope audiences will have a happy, surprising, interesting time. The one thing they’ll know is that it’s live: a real performer with a real audience having an evening together that’s unique. Every show is a little bit different. I hope you’ll come and, afterwards, I hope you’ll come and say hello.