Suggs: My Life Story in Words and Music, Queens Hall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
"Part theatre, part stand-up and with pertinent songs dropped in, Suggs' story is a gripping one"
When Suggs' beloved cat Mambo suddenly dropped dead on the morning of the Madness singer's 50th birthday, it unsurprisingly shook loose a sense of his own mortality.
And when his mum chose that day to divulge secrets about the father he never knew, that nostalgia was converted into a researching zeal that has led him here tonight, to share the story of how he found out the fate of his dad (by searching Wikipedia, apparently), and discovered that his real family has always been his Nutty Boy bandmates.
Part theatre, part stand-up and with pertinent songs dropped in – accompanied by his young assistant on piano or guitar – Suggs's is a gripping story. Whilst he never drops the laugh count in the telling, his life has not been short of tragedy.
Your heart breaks for the young Graham McPherson whose mum shipped him off to his auntie's in Wales on 'holiday', one of which he dryly comments lasted for three years, and who was then dropped back into a rough London high school mid-term with a touch of a Welsh accent and a Scottish name.
It's a sign of the chipper attitude and drive to succeed that would mark his later life that this wee lad reinvented himself as 'Suggs: your leader'.
A potted history of the band shows the influence of working-class heroes such as Ian Dury – who taught them that you could turn ordinary life into poetry. It's a lesson they learned well and though they would break up for years, their ongoing reunion and shows at the Jubilee and Olympics closing ceremony have now seen Madness acknowledged as an essential part of British culture.
That hasn't stopped Suggs in his (very British) continuing mission to be, as he repeatedly puts it, "up there, rather than down here". Never has there been such an appealing combination of ambition and self-deprecation.
In this skilled, moving and very funny show, Suggs reveals himself to be every inch the man that this crowd of long-term fans want him to be. You definitely could do worse for a leader.
The Queens Hall, 7pm and 10pm, August 24
Photo credit: The Queen's Hall