Salmond's show: Good natured and pleasant but hardly unleashed

By Pauline McLean
BBC Scotland arts correspondent

Image caption,
Each show features a special guest, with Elaine C Smith the latest to appear

Former First Minister Alex Salmond has begun a sold-out stint at the Edinburgh festival fringe. BBC Scotland Arts Correspondent Pauline McLean went along to take in an early performance of the politician's chat show.

The alliance of defiance is how the Edinburgh Fringe bills itself in this its 70th anniversary year. A platform for those who want to shout, or sing, or simply have their say in the midst of the greatest arts gathering in the world.

So it's not unusual to find politicians in the thick of it, or indeed audiences interested in politics.

As a former first minister, and veteran politician, Alex Salmond has plenty to say, and no problem saying it in public.

In his show Alex Salmond Unleashed he promises to discuss the things he couldn't discuss in office, and bring along many of the people he's met in his career, from sport and show business as well as politics.

It was either "unleashed" or "unhinged" he admits, as he comes onstage to a rousing reception, removes his tie and throws it into the audience.

"No more," shouts a man from the back.

What follows is a very pleasant hour of music, comedy and chat. No great revelations from Mr Salmond, or his guest, Elaine C Smith, invited in her capacity as co-convenor of the independence convention as well as for her skills as an actress and singer.

She sings a couple of numbers, Mother Glasgow, and then Four Marys, which former boy soprano Alex Salmond gamely duets on.

It's a bit like a TV show - there's a house band, and TV cameras, and even Mr Salmond refers to it "episodes". Perhaps it's all part of an elaborate pitch for a new career, an extension of his LBC radio show, where he's also happy to be behind the microphone asking the questions.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
The former first minister will stage 18 sold-out shows

It all rattles along, Mr Salmond is an amiable enough host, happy to take (pre-vetted) questions from the audience, which include his views on the recent election result, whether there'll be another snap election and whether a teenager from Luxembourg can get a ticket for the show (she can, and a ticket is procured).

Janey Godley does a stand up spot, followed by a little bit of Glasgow voiceover work (today's victim is Nicola Sturgeon) and then there's a charity auction for the chance to have afternoon tea with both Mr Salmond and Elaine C Smith.

It's so good natured, Mr Salmond persuades the two rival bidders to combine their bids and raise £1250 for Elaine's chosen charity, the Paul O'Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre in Glasgow.

So it's not buttoned up, but it's not unleashed either. No great revelations, or controversial moments. Not that the audience mind, they leave happy. And Mr Salmond? He has the last laugh. All 18 shows have sold out, without even the need for a hint about a mystery guest.

And that, during the Fringe - with its offer of 3,398 different shows - is quite a feat.

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