Alex Salmond … Unleashed review: music and chat but no juicy gossip | Stage

When the former first minister of Scotland and now ex-MP Alex Salmond announced this last-minute fringe run, it sold out faster than you can say “independence in Europe”. Perhaps punters were seduced by the promise of (as the title runs) “Alex Salmond … Unleashed”. He’s been promising to kiss and tell, hinting on the Today programme at a story involving – of all things – sado-masochism and Kirsty Wark. Sure enough, the show begins (after a rousing reception from the crowd) with Salmond theatrically removing his tie. He’s buttoned up no more, and we buckle up for juicy gossip from behind the scenes of Scottish and UK politics.

But that’s not what we get. Instead, Unleashed is an hour of music, clubbable chat with a special guest, and some reflections on Scotland’s historical ties to Europe. (Each show will have a different theme.) Today’s visitor, greeted with surprise by the crowd, is the “Brexit bulldog”, David Davis – to whom we have to be nice, Salmond instructs us, because they’re pals. If we hadn’t been told, we’d guess from the chummy conversation that follows. Two old guys, two upholstered leather armchairs: think gentleman’s club and you wouldn’t be wide of the mark.

It’s not that Salmond isn’t a capable entertainer. From the opening chat with his onstage band, it’s clear he has adept comic timing, and his best questions to Davis (“You’re telling us Michael Gove is right behind you. How does that make you feel?”) recall Mrs Merton at her finest. The problem is that he gives Davis such an easy ride. The manifest risks of Brexit go unexplored – but neither is Davis induced to reveal anything unexpected about his personal or professional life. He emerges as a good egg (who wouldn’t under this friendly a line of questioning?), with a neat quip about the ambiguity of the phrase “transition period”, and a story about his army misdemeanours – the latter in response to the same question that got…

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