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The Alex Tour 2008

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Alex Tour 2008

The Alex Live on Stage Up and Under Tour 2008

You can read Alex's creators Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor talking about Alex cashing in on the credit crunch


Alex opened his world tour, slightly late, at the Plaza Ballroom in Melbourne on September 9th. Australian shows, we quickly realised, tend to start behind schedule as audiences Down Under are rather harder to extract from the pre-theatre bar.

Our initial worry was: would Alex be accepted as an Englishman? We had heard that many Australians, who follow Alex’s adventures daily in the Australian Financial Review, assume that Alex is a fellow Antipodean. However Robert Bathurst’s public school tones and immaculate pinstripe suit quickly quelled any lingering doubts, especially when coupled with his snide asides about Team Australia's recent underperformance at the Beijing Olympics, which were taken in good humour by the locals.

However Melbourne audiences were noticeably more shocked by Alex's cavalier treatment of his wife Penny than their British counterparts had been last year. Does this give the lie to the traditional image of the boorish Ocker? Or were they just trying to show that they are more sensitive and sophisticated than other Australians?

Some Melbourne bankers, who didn’t manage to get to the show, contrived to fabricate urgent business trips up to Sydney to coincide with the next leg of the tour (and which would have the welcome additional benefit of earning them some much-needed air miles).


We played five sold-out nights at the Sydney Opera House (well, actually it was the Opera House’s studio theatre, but you were impressed there for a moment weren’t you?).

The much-heralded arrival of the Alex tour in New South Wales was slightly overshadowed by the simultaneous detonation of the biggest crisis in the financial world for eighty years. But frankly, after a day in front of their screens watching global markets melt down, audience members seemed relieved at the chance to sit in a darkened room and be forced to switch off their Blackberries for ninety minutes.

Their voluble appreciation of the play no doubt stemmed from a nostalgia for the golden age of the City (a week or so previously) when the demise of global capitalism had not seemed just round the corner. Though the references to banks being taken over and Alex’s constant worries about losing his job made quite a few bottoms shift uncomfortably on seats as people wondered if they would still have an office to go back to by the time the house lights came up again.


As if it wasn't bad enough having global market turmoil steal Alex's thunder in Sydney, in Hong Kong his thunder was stolen by, well, thunder.. Typhoon Hagupit to be more accurate, which hit the South China coast on Tuesday, the day before the show opened. The problem was that when there is a typhoon warning in Hong Kong everyone gets sent home early from work and they normally celebrate by going out for a few drinks.

However our worries that our audience for Wednesday's opening night would be too hungover to show up proved unfounded and the only damage done by the typhoon was knocking out the air-conditioning in the theatre. With temperatures at 34 degrees it looked as if Robert Bathurst would have to take to the stage in a loincloth. Luckily the audience spent so long quaffing champagne in the bar that by the time they took their seats the aircon had been fixed. They proceeded to give the show possibly its finest ever reception (doubtless as a result of the champagne), with some lines eliciting spontaneous rounds of applause.


The next stop on Alex’s Asian tour differed from the other territories we had visited in that the cartoon does not actually currently syndicate in a newspaper in Singapore. Having checked the diary we suspect this stopover was mainly due to Robert Bathurst’s desire to catch the Singapore Grand Prix and spend a few nights in the old colonial splendour of the Raffles Hotel. Clearly he is using the Method to get into his role, as this sort of Machiavellian exploitation of a business trip would do credit to Alex Masterley himself.

However the global reach of the internet meant that there were enough Alex fans – swelled by the curious, the culturally starved and the usual contingent of nostalgic ex-pats - to form a keen and appreciative audience. This appreciation was apparently continued by some of the local ladies in various bars after the show.

In fact, apart from the rather laissez-faire attitude of the theatre crew (perhaps understandable considering their country’s proximity to the equator) the only local who blotted the nation’s copybook was the unknown individual who stole a handbag belonging to Beccy, our deputy stage manager, and which contained her passport. Had Beccy been unable to travel on to Dubai it would have meant most of the supporting cast of the play also failing to make it, as it is only thanks to her expert cue-calling that the animated cartoon characters are are brought to life on the projection screens each night. Happily the British High Commission obliged with some emergency travel documentation just in time and she managed to make the plane.


Our itinerary brought us to Dubai at rather an awkward time. With Ramadan having just finished the locals were only slowly beginning to consider the notion of enjoying a social life again. Luckily audience numbers were swelled by the many thousands of itinerant unemployed bankers visiting the Emirates with cvs in hand desperately begging for jobs in what was one of the few remaining secure havens of cash in the world.

The Madinat theatre is located in a five star hotel (scarcely more than a B&B in Dubai where some hotels have seven stars). The auditorium is equipped with airline-style business class seats, so that audience members were able to recline in the sort of executive comfort to which they will pretty soon have to stop being accustomed, what with the way the markets are going. But despite all the extra legroom provision we still managed to play to our largest ever audience in our last night in the Emirates.

And now it’s onwards and upwards for the Alex show as it moves from the Middle East to Eastbourne..