Published: 01/03/2018 07:00 - Updated: 01/03/2018 09:49

EXCLUSIVE: Former First Minister's 'Eck of a career change

Written byKyle Walker

Former First Minister Alex Salmond is set to be Unleashed at Eden Court on Saturday.

After his long political career came to a sudden end at last June’s General Election, some people may have hoped that Alex Salmond would take some time out to enjoy some peace and indulge in a bit of quiet reflection.

Those people do not know Alex Salmond very well.

The former SNP First Minister and figurehead of the Scottish independence movement, who had held an elected position in some capacity since 1987, lost his Gordon seat to Conservative Colin Clark in the snap election.

And to say that he has managed to bounce back from that first ever electoral defeat would be an understatement – over the nine months since that day, Alex Salmond has dabbled in television via RT, radio through his LBC phone-in show, and stage with the 24-date sell out Fringe show Alex Salmond Unleashed.

When it’s put to Alex that he’s become something of a multimedia star, he laughs. “Weeeeell...” he drawls, before batting the question away with a typical politician’s grace. “I mean, I like a sense of humour, you know!”

And Alex Salmond is set to be unleashed once more as the man, unshackled from the chains of office, takes the Fringe show on tour – making his way to Eden Court’s One Touch theatre this Saturday.

The two-hour stage show is described as almost a traditional variety show – there are comedy skits and songs with the help of Unleashed regulars comedian Des Clarke, traditional singer Sheena Wellington, and house band The Carloways.

Alex himself will be getting involved with the process – the one-time boy-soprano knows his way around a song.

And he’s even set to revive his take on the classic Rikki Fulton character Rev IM Jolly, after a clip he had recorded in-character for the Alex Salmond Show’s Christmas special received more than 165,000 views on Facebook. “I’ll be writing, uh, I haven’t written that script yet,” he laughs, “but I’ll do it before Saturday!”

Every show on this tour is also set to feature a few special guests, and Inverness is no exception – Scottish stars of stage and screen Brian Cox and David Hayman will both be joining Alex on the day.

“We’ve got a Hollywood double!” he exclaims. “They’re going to be performing a double act. It was to do with their film schedules – their film schedules kept changing – but they’re both arriving together!”

This isn’t however just a show for spectators – the Inverness crowd will have their role to play too. “One of the beauties of the stage show, particularly in theatres like the OneTouch, is that you get quite a bit of audience reaction,” he explains.

“We do a question and answer session with the audience, so they get the opportunity to ask myself or Brian or David questions – people love that sort of thing. So it’s a very interactive show.

Alex Salmond pictured during his previous visit signing books at Waterstones Inverness.There will also be a bit of charity fundraising done on the day – so far, the stage show has raised £27,000 for various good causes around the country. “Particularly when we have David as a guest because he has a wonderful charity called Spirit Aid – so I imagine we’ll find something useful to auction! It’s the way we’ve done it before, and it always gets a great response.”

This is the second time that Alex Salmond Unleashed has hit the road since that Edinburgh run, after a brief three-date tour in November last year, and the first time that it reaches the Highlands.

And he’s been adjusting well to the shift in role from politician to presenter and entertainer – while still using the platforms to promote the causes that matter to him.

He has been vociferous over last month of his LBC show with regards to the Nancy Glen fishing boat that capsized, demanding the UK Government raise it so that the bodies of those who died can be returned to their families.

And while this interview is happening Alex is in the middle of putting together an episode of RT’s The Alex Salmond Show – the final programme of a three-part special on Ireland and Brexit.

It’s a huge and unruly schedule for most people – but for the longest-serving First Minister of the Scottish Parliament? “I love it!” he exclaims. “I love audiences, and I love doing the phone-in show.

“It gets you an interaction with people. I think it’s great, doing the TV thing, but you know obviously it’s inevitably much more planned.”

It’s being live in front of people, however, where Alex finds himself most comfortable – a perhaps unsurprising fact for a politician with so much experience in public speaking. “Nothing quite beats being on stage, you know?” he says. “Because it’s, uh...it’s very much live and you’re very much in front of people!

“In the radio, although you’re live, it’s just a voice, but in the stage show it’s very intimate and it’s very upfront and it’s great fun.”

But while entertainment is the name of the game here – with the songs, the sketches and the celebrity guests – this is still former First Minister Alex Salmond running the show, arguably one of the most divisive and discussed politicians in recent history.

And sure enough, he’ll be bringing all of that to bear on the Eden Court stage. “What I do is a mixture of stories, hopefully amusing stories, from the political past – the quite immediate political past, obviously,” he explains, “along with recollections of things and commentary on current events.”

And while he’s keeping his cards close to his chest, he does have one thing in his sights – Brexit. “I’ll probably be talking a bit about the ‘Cluedo cabinet’, which I thought was the most amusingly comical thing,” he chuckles. “Those pictures of the Brexit war cabinet meeting at Chequers, they’re going from room to room trying to come to an agreement!

“But I don’t think there’s any doubt about whodunit. I think it was Michael Gove with the knife in the back in the library, in the drawing room – everywhere in fact!”

@spp_kwalker | Alex Salmond Unleashed comes to Eden Court on Saturday, with shows at 4pm (matinee) and 8pm. For more information, go to www.eden-court.co.uk

WATCH the trailer for the Inverness show below.

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