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An Interview with Gyles Brandreth

By Lee-Anne Gough

Gyles Brandreth, wit and word-meister, former MP and star of Just a Minute, The One Show, QI, Have I Got News For You and Room 101, is bringing his new show Word Power!, an uproarious magic carpet ride around the world of the English language, to Richmond Theatre on Sunday 22nd May.

We caught up with him to see if he really does have a way with words!

So Gyles, what can audiences expect from your Word Power show?

A two-hour show that takes you on a roller-coaster ride around the amazing world of words. It's a show that should make you laugh and might even make you cry.  It's based around my lifelong love of words and includes stories from my life in the theatre and politics. It's a show for people who love live theatre and who enjoy listening to Just A Minute or watching QI.

What do you love about the English language? 

Everything! English is the richest language in the world. There are 500,000 words in the English dictionary. Language is what makes us human. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell said, "No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor but honest. Only words can do that."

What is your favourite word and why? 

My favourite word changes from day to day.  I'm currently rather liking the word 'yex'. It's an old word for a 'hiccup' and it's very useful for playing Scrabble. I'm enjoying another old word at the moment, too. To 'squiddle' is to waste time in idle talk. I do quite a bit of that. 

What is your favourite English accent?

I love the variety of accents we have in the British Isles. Just to be difficult, I rather like a Brummie accent. I don't mind what the accent is, so long as whoever is speaking can be understood.  I can't stand mumbling. These days on TV I often find myself watching the TV with the subtitles so I can follow what's going on.

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Do you think the English language will be as important a language in 100 years' time? 

Yes! English is getting more and more important every year. English is now truly the lingua franca of the world.  More people are speaking English than ever before. We are so blessed that our language, English, is the world's language!  Word Power! Truly: get it, use it, conquer the world!

Who is your linguistic hero?

William Shakespeare. He died 400 years ago this year, but he is one of the reasons that English is the world's richest and most wonderful language. Until Shakespeare came along, the English language lacked excitement. Yes, Shakespeare invented the word - along with more than a thousand others.  It appears first in his play, Hamlet.  (When I was a young actor, I played Hamlet once - not very successfully.  The audience threw eggs at me.  I went on as Hamlet, came off as omelette.) 

You recently met Miley Cyrus. Where did you meet her and what did you tell her about 'twerking'?

I met Miley in a lift at the BBC. She is famous for her 'twerking'. She seemed to think she had invented the word. I told her twerking was what's known as a 'portmanteau' word, combining two words in one, and has been around since the early 1800s.  It's a mix of twist and jerk.  She kindly said she'd come to see my Word Power! show so if you come, look out for Miley. You may be there on the same night.

If you could give your 25-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Live in the moment. Relish the here and now. You only get today once, so make the most of it. It's the advice I was given when I was 25. My father passed on to me the words of a great American playwright, William Saroyan:

'Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep.  Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell.  And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive.  You will be dead soon enough.'

Living in the moment is why I love live theatre. It's only happening here and now - tonight.  With my Word Power! show, I hope audiences will have a happy, surprising, interesting time. The one thing they'll know is that it's live: a real performer with a real audience having an evening together that's unique. Every show is a little bit different. I hope you'll come and, afterwards, I hope you'll come and say hello.

Come and say 'hello' to Gyles at Richmond Theatre on Sunday 22nd May at 7.30pm

Get your tickets here