Peter Orton (director)
Network on Air (studio)
18 February 2019 (released)
05 March 2019
‘The Thoughts of Chairman Alf' (1998) had in fact already been a big hit for Warren Mitchell and creator Johnny Speight as a one-man show in the West End in the mid 70's. Here we have Alf in a mock theatre (London TV Studios) doing a very similar show to 'An Audience with Alf Garnett’ from the year before.
There is also an Australian version, only this Brit version has to be from the point of view of the performer (Alf Garnett) considerably more difficult as he is keeping to the same subject matter but taking questions from the audience. True, the audience may have been given these questions beforehand and if they did not then we can only give more plaudits to Warren Mitchell (then in his 72 year) for being on blistering form. This live-show comes in six segments and it would be interesting to know how many were done in one take. By this time Mitchell must have known the character inside out and here he does make some sense... well, some. Nevertheless we still have the same old Alf with his cockeyed opinions. On animal rights we get: “Wot abaht human rights, well I mean they get to live in the country not a bloody great militant slum in Newham; while they're alive their better off than me”. On Tony Banks, a then well known left wing politician: “I thought it was rhyming slang” (Cockney rhyming slang: Banks = *anks). Or ethnic minorities: '”Yer Parkis, they're all Gunga- Dins, send the poor ones back and keep the rich one's here.” Prophetic that in view of the current climate. On Mrs. Thatcher - Alf gets out of this one easier by claiming “Yer women shouldn't be in politics, they should be at home looking after the kids”. His diatribe about Mrs. Thatcher selling arms to yer krauts and froggies, so they can kill each other and we can all speak English, might well be appreciated by Brexit xenophobes!
As offensive as a lot of it is, we have London Studios mocked up to look like an old theatre, a bare stage with Annigoni's portrait of the Queen against the back wall and long suffering pianist Ronnie Cass (“Welsh twit”) in the left corner. Centre stage is a desk with a Union Jack draped over it; no one was ever more patriotic than our Alf. Occasionally he corrects Alf whose history is just a little shaky e.g. when he's rambling on about bloody Arabs such as ‘Lawrence of Arabia's’ filthy book’: “Wot was she doin' in the garden with David Mellors?” (a then well known Tory politician). Ronnie informing him that T. E. Lawrence was not an Arab. Alf's reply: “Shut up, you Welsh git” or words to that effect. Such ribaldry.
In all of the segments Alf, as usual, gets increasingly drunk remonstrating with the backstage manager for his beer ration and ends up giving us an old music hall song (Warren could give professional music hall performer Gus Elen a run for his money).
This is grossly politically incorrect but for all those not belonging to ‘Generation Snowflake’ there are laughs a-plenty!