Darlington Hippodrome (until Wednesday, July 26)

Silly, surreal and laugh-out-loud funny, this new madcap musical from Harry Hill and Steve Brown is like nothing you'll have ever seen before.

Loosely - very loosely - based on the life of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (Tony to you and I), it charts the rise and fall from grace of the Labour Party's most successful ever Prime Minister.

In Hill's irreverent version of history, Blair is a nerd, obsessed by Mick Jagger - or Jaggers as he calls him throughout - easily led and seemingly without a real grasp of what he's doing or why.

Expertly portrayed by Jack Whittle, he wears a rictus perma-grin throughout as historical events unfold around him.

The Northern Echo: Jack Whittle plays Tony Blair, as imagined by Harry Hill and Steve BrownJack Whittle plays Tony Blair, as imagined by Harry Hill and Steve Brown (Image: DARLINGTON HIPPODROME)

The cast is populated by grotesque caricatures of real people - Gordon Brown is a grumpy, gurning loser, Peter Mandelson a camp, bloodsucking master manipulator and Cherie Blair an ambitious schemer with a thick Scouse accent.

Neil Kinnock, John Prescott, Robin Cook and David Blunkett are among a cast of dozens who all all get uproariously sent up - and not even 'the People's Princess' herself, Diana, escapes the Harry Hill treatment.

This production has Hill's familiar fingerprints all over it as the first half of the show follows our gullible hero through his birth and education, his election to Number 10 and soaraway success as a Britpop loving PM.

It starts to go awry for the former Sedgefield MP after the break as he encounters a warmongering George W Bush - eager as a puppy to pull on the jeans the bemused US President hands him.

Rude and risque, the jokes come thick and fast at the expense of everyone who was anyone and had the audience rocking with laughter in their seats from the start.

The Northern Echo: Tony Blair is borm, in a scene from Tony! - the Tony Blair Rock OperaTony Blair is borm, in a scene from Tony! - the Tony Blair Rock Opera (Image: DARLINGTON HIPPODROME)

The songs are a work of genius - who else but Hill and Brown could have Saddam Hussein, looking more like Groucho Marx, crooning 'I Never Done Anything Wrong', or Osama bin Laden singing 'Kill The Infidel' to a harem of wives in his bunker.

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This certainy isn't subtle stuff, but it's very clever and handled with aplomb by the skilled cast, who played multiple parts and were clearly enjoying themselves throughout - special mention here to audience favourite Howard Samuels, who as well as the aforementioned Mandelson also played a deranged Dick Cheney and a kilt-wearing bagpipe-playing Alastair Campbell.

Daft? Yes. Absurd? Certainly. But above all, very very funny.

Goodness knows what the good folk of Sedgefield will make of it when it starts a three-night run at the Parish Hall there on Thursday (July 27).

For more details visit