COMEDIAN Nick Hall is coming to the Fringe with his play based on the life - and death – of Spencer Percival. “Spencer who?” I can hear you ask. Well, Hall anticipated your question during a chat from his home in Stratford and agreed the one-time Prime Minster, who died 206 years ago doesn’t immediately suggest play potential.

“Spencer’s story is actually quite boring,” says Hall, grinning.

“He wasn’t a remarkable Prime Minister, he didn’t have a remarkable life. And he lived in a period that no one really knows about, sort of late seventeen hundreds. So what do you do with that.”

Exactly. So tell us, Nick.

“What I did it was re-write Percival as an X Factor type, make it a rags-to-riches tale of a man who wants it so badly, “it” being the biggest job in the land.

“But as I’m performing as Percival we then drop the mask at that point and I tell the real story. I reveal the tongue-in-cheekness of the beginning was all part of my plan to draw the audiences in.

“I tell the real tale, which is a riches to-riches tale. Successful white guy become Prime Minister. This is our Hamilton the Musical. He’s a classic gentrified character. But to get the comedy, I got the inspiration from Michael Winterbottom’s A Cock and Bull Story, a film of Laurence Sterne’s novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, featuring this character commenting on his own life, starring Steve Coogan. Spencer then becomes the lead character but Nick comes in to offer up an overview on how the show is going.”

So far so good. That’s the first half of the show. And Hall keeps it moving along swimmingly by dripping in references and comparisons to modern-day politics.

“And I make Percival a bit geeky like me. Someone just plugging along until he gets the job. Then about half way through the show something happens.”

That something arrives in the form of a bullet. “Percival gets shot in the lobby of the House of Commons. Here was someone who wanted to be No 1 so badly, but now he’s dead.” Yes, but can Percival become a different sort of No 1? “After all, Elvis sold more records after he died. Could Spencer could have an airport named after him like JFK or John Lennon?

“Then we start to get all these fantastical conspiracy theories about who was behind the murder of Spencer. Who are the radicals of the day? Was it the Luddites? And for the denouement we find out who was actually behind the assassination, and discover it to be a very human story.”

Hall adds in more serious voice; “I don’t like to over-egg it but we go with the theory that bad things happen to people. There are parallels with the Jo Cox killing of two years ago. And in the play we go from a comedic form to a very different experience. Thankfully, audiences go on this journey. They know you can’t come up with an hour long show about the death of someone. It’s just not that funny.”

Hall knows the dark world of politics. In fact, he could have become a spy. “I did a Masters in Russian Foreign Policy, back in 2005, in the time before the Crash when you could get away with taking such daft courses,” he says, grinning.

“I was then contacted by MI6 to attend an interview.

But he reveals he flunked the test. Badly. But how? “It could have been because I told everyone I was going up for the interview. I probably put it on MySpace. I bragged to everyone.”

Bragging is not a great personal quality in a spy. “No, and on top of that I couldn’t actually speak Russian. I’d have be a rubbish secret agent.”

The failed James Bond instead became a House of Commons researcher. “I worked for a few Labour MPs which was fun, you get access to the bar and all that. But it became boring. I gave it up and worked for a charity.”

Yet, he’d always been keen on comedy. “It’s all performance, like spying,” he says, grinning. “Just a big improv show. And I’d always done comedy on the side, even when I was in Parliament, where I hired a room and actually did sketches.”

He adds; “It’s the arrogance of performing. It’s in you or it’s not.”

It took Hall some years to hone his act. “I used to bounce off the walls, but gradually you improve. I can act a bit as well. I’m a six out of ten actor. And Spencer is a crystallisation of where I am now.”

Spencer is an Alan Partridge-like creature, who’s rooted in reality. Spencer’s wife, Jane, also features in the play. “She’s the proto-feminist, denied a voice,” says Hall. “She’s the Cheri Blair to his Tony.”

The History graduate read all four Percival biograpghies. He knows his subject, even if his audience won’t. “Although one bloke emailed me to say Spencer had 13 children, not 12 as I’d suggested.”

But as he narrates the play, Hall claims a 2:2 in History, when in fact he has a 2:1.”True,” he says, grinning. “To claim a First would set me apart. Everyone gets a 2:1 these days, so a 2:2 helps you look more stupid, yet you can get away with presenting a History show.” You wouldn’t go all the way and claim a Third Class degree? “A Third would suggest your mentally faculties are severely impaired and the audience would refuse to pay money to see that,” he says, his voice deadpan.

Reviews for the show suggest it to be very funny and clever. “It’s certainly the only show at the Edinburgh Festival about an 18th century Prime Minister. Charles Watson Wentworth? Pitt The Younger? They’re not getting a show, performed by a short guy in a fancy dress outfit;whereas Spencer is.” He adds, smiling; “This may not be high art – but it is immortality.”

Nick Hall: Spencer, Underbelly (Clover), Bristo Square @ 13:30. August 1 - 27 (not 13).