Monday, 30 April 2018

Post something, you idiot, it's nearly May!

Well this is nice, and will brighten up the place. It's by Rhianna Evans. Thanks, Rihanna! It bears an astonishing resemblance to the thing in my head, and I love the oven gloves on Mr. Mergatroid... who I guess is the matriarch?... which makes sense, as both Kraken and the Voice are patriarchs, and Mergatroid does move from one to the other... so then, I don't know, Gabbie's the craftsman, Martin's the clown? Does any of this work? Sorry you've been out of the loop, blog, but there is to be a SECOND WHOLE EPISODE of "Time Spanner" to be recorded and broadcast later this year. Hazard a whoop! Not a whole series, mind, just another standalone, so if this story - very clearly begun on November the 3rd 2016 - ever is to be finished it will have a pretty interesting shape, and will at least span time. John Finnemore hosted a read-through of a draft that I wrote last week. And it turns out we won't be using that. Well, it could be better, and needs to be the best, let's put it like that. Anyway, watch this - if you'll pardon the pun - space. Oh also, a Time Spanner fan blog has been set up which is absolutely full of tangential goodies and is providing, for this writer at least, an incredibly useful resource/spur.

And the show was repeated on the actual radio waves! But I'm too late to post a link to that. Sorry. Speaking of continued evidence of my existence however: Series 4 of That Mitchell and Webb Sound was also repeated, for which I wrote some sketches that I'm very fond of, none of which appear in episode 6 however, which is the only episode still up on iplayer. Also, Series 3 of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme is still mostly up, and incredible - I can see that now unambiguously, this far on. Lucky for me.

Finally, one more regurgitation: "Nightmare in Deskteeth", the surreal short about red boots that appears in my showreel and whose filming I mentioned here, is now entirely visible on vimeo. Or below.

Anything else? Oh flip! Yes! WE'RE STILL GOING ON TOUR! As you were.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

"What silly voices we might have!"

Arms, Simon?

All 4 episodes of "Angstrom" are now listenable-to in some form or other on the web - the first episode as a Comedy Of The Week podcast here, the other three still available on iplayer here. Playing the narrator finally allowed me to put all those Anglo-Saxon classes to use (TANGENT: that's where I first learnt that English poetry originally followed lines of four stresses rather than the five beats of classical verse, which are an affectation towards Italian. This is why Peter Hall was talking bols when he said iambic pentameter just followed our natural speech patterns: ask most people to quote Shakespeare and they'll say "To BE or NOT to be, THAT is the QUES-tion", not "To BE or NOT to BE, that IS the QUES-tion". They'll say "A HORSE, a HORSE, my KING-dom for a HORSE", not "A HORSE, a HORSE, my KING-dom FOR a HORSE". They'll say "SHALL I com-PARE thee to a SUM-mer's DAY?" not "Shall I com-PARE thee TO a SUM-mer's DAY?" I mean, I COULD GO ON, PETER.) Anyway, I don't know how much of this Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley were down with, but they're both excellent musicians (and always banging on about how comedy is music*) and I adore how the finished show sounds - on top of just how much it makes me laugh - and am very proud to have been part of that rhythm section. As for my accent, I don't know... Leslie Caron? And Bols Aashol's voice has, I now realise, more than a bit of Jim Carter in "Detectives on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" about him, which I've no regrets about at all. Joel and Jason don't seem to have any regrets either, and working for them always provides a great opportunity to receive their unconditional love. Thanks to them and producer Lyndsay Fenner for such a leap of faith. Angstrom was, and is, happy.

Oh, NOW you fold them!

... As of course is John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, whose Series 7 finale aired last week. Fans of the show will probably already know that producer Ed Morrish posts his own accounts of each episode on tumblr. I would only add here that John and I went through a number of voices for the Better Memory Entrepreneurs before settling on what you hear; that they sound so much like our goldfish voices is a genuine coincidence which I only wish we'd realised at the time and committed to even more. And how do you top last year's Musical? Well - as Juliet Brando put it on twitter - with a "Finnception" by which I mean, if you haven't already listened to the episode, there's absolutely nothing unusual or spoilerable about Episode 6 at all, it's all just normal great Finnemore goodness.

Pictured: Liam Gallagher's coffee maker, which we found taking up half the studio on day 1.

Even a lip-gnawing, own-tail-chasing louche twat like me can appreciate being in two such special things in a month. As much as performers bring lines to life, lines bring performers to life; John is Geppetto, Jason and Joel are Sid from Toy Story; both are examples of master toy makers, and being brought to life by both was magic fun.

Oh and did you know WE'RE GOING ON TOUR?!

Not with these guys though. Well not yet, at least. Here's that cracking Angstrom theme.

*Let's elaborate: Of course they're right, but "is" is a big old two-letter word. I'd say comedy requires what music requires, but more than it and less of it (although you can't have too much) and the "it" is the wheels of comedy, not the motor, which is an idea (however if I knew more about music, maybe I'd realise ideas are the motors of music too.)

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Votes For Women: The Case Against

I ruddy love playing politicians, me. I also love playing police as part of the old immersive (see profile pic above right {or this}) and over the weekend I was lucky enough to do both as part of Story Spinner's interventions and rally celebrating the centenary of Women's Suffrage at the Museum of London. The whole event was incredibly well attended, and I got to see what the City gets up to before noon, which is pretty much exactly what I expected:

We had to write our own speeches for the rally, which was great because I really hadn't done any paid writing at all last year. The first character given to me was "an anti-women’s suffrage politician, of the Liberal persuasion. They were not anti the idea women’s suffrage per se, but worried that women would vote Tory and boot them out..." which of course they then did. This made for a great jumping off point in the current climate of Brexit and Trump, and I loved performing the speech in front of families all waiting for something to boo. Here's a little clip of it posted on twitter, and here's the whole thing:
Thank you for inviting me to speak. I will open my address, if I may, by saying something that may shock you:

I want a fairer society for all. 

Why then do I wish to deny women The Vote, lovely as that might sound? Well, by way of an answer I would like, if you will indulge me, to tell you a fairy tale... Imagine a utopia, a world in which every citizen were indeed allowed to vote. One day a proposition is put to these lucky inhabitants and it is this: If passed by a majority - if more than half the inhabitants vote in favour - these voters will be allowed to banish everyone who voted against the proposition, and take all of their belongings. Now even if voted for, would that be fair? Of course not. So why would anyone vote for such a proposition?

Would it not only be because these voters have as yet no understanding of the responsibility of their vote? No experience of the wider workings of civilization, of the Greater World, of... Society? No ambition beyond their own immediate domestic sphere, their own home?

And am I not now describing a woman?

I say to you that women should not be allowed the vote until it is clear that they know what to do with it. Now you may find me terribly patronizing for arguing as I do… a silly fool, an overbearing jackass. But I would ask you… indeed I would beg you ladies… beg you to consider how far, far more overbearing a tyrant you could face if the job of electing him was suddenly given to those who, by your own argument, have never known freedom. Once you are free, then you can vote. That must be the rule. We have all had too strong a taste of the terror and chaos wrought by any other argument. Though your intentions are good, the road to Hell is - as we know - paved with good intentions, and there is driving these protests something sinister that you might not yet see. But I can. As a Liberal I refuse to believe that any civilization can be made healthier letting its course be decided by those who plant bombs, attack the police, and throw themselves under horses. And I see no reason to think that future generations of women, with clearer heads, might disagree.

Thank you for listening.
Basically last weekend

The second brief was, well... "Second character is a little more tricky. He is an early ‘90s ‘New Man’ type, bit tree hugger-ish, bit trustafarian, who works for Amnesty, but we don't want to take the piss out of him (!). His angle is that although women in our country by then are relatively free and equal, around the world, many are still enslaved, (bearing in mind that the audience are 10 +  and most likely there will be younger ones)." So... something simple and vague but heartfelt and from the nineties. I decided to make him a performance poet, and wrote this to cleanse the pallet:

The first International Women’s Day
Was observed in Russia in 1913,
By textile workers. And who could have foreseen
The revolution set rolling: The Vote, Equal Pay,
And what were their weapons?  Ideas.
Not violence.
And how far we’ve come thanks to those who fought
And marched and shouted and gave no thought
To the men – mainly men - who wanted them silenced.
So I’m here to say thank you but also:
Let’s listen…

For the world’s getting smaller now, but louder
And as we head towards the new millennium
Let’s celebrate all that these women have done
And say: yes, we couldn’t be prouder
But also –
No, and also
Let’s listen…

Because there are still women now, women today
Women alive now in lands far away
Not given their say
Over how they should marry
Not given their say in the children they carry,
Or where they can move, Or what they can learn,
What jobs they can hold, what money they’ll earn.
Around the world women are still crying out
So let’s listen to their stories, join in their shout.
Listen to the world, add our voices to theirs
To the women of the world, not just thoughts and prayers
But – Yes, thoughts and prayers - 
But also arms! Mouths! Ears!
Demonstrate! Remonstrate! Until the whole world hears:
It’s International Women’s Day
Every Day!
Every Day!
International Women’s Day
Until every woman is given a say!
There are still ideas out there that still need defeating
So the message of this movement still bears repeating:
It’s International Women’s Day
Every Day!
Every Day!
International Women’s Day
Until every woman is given a say!
Until all of the planet’s saying “Nowhere to hide!
All those who oppress, it’s the end of the ride!”

And a better world’s waiting if we listen to this one
Already made better by what women have done.


 Thanks to Beccy and Georgia for inviting me aboard, and to Jo "Annie" Bowis (left) and Grace Brightwell for letting me tear down their posters and chase them round the Millennium Cauldron. Here's Al Jazeera:

P.S. I'd forgotten that I found this while staying at my parents' over Christmas: "Pank-A-Squith", the contemporaneous Suffragette Board Game!

Thursday, 25 January 2018

The nice reason there's a "Suicide Hotline Phil" on my phone

 Realising I was never going to make it in time to the Wandsworth screening of "Paddington 2" I got off the train at Vauxhall instead and went for a riverside walk past the chrome crates towards Putney. That weekend was a wet state. The inside of the pockets of my parka had become soapy from the rain and maybe the antibacterial hand gel I keep there to stop everything, and I finally found myself standing opposite the flats where we'd filmed "Suicide Hotline" back in 2016, before heading back home. In the evening I coincidentally learnt that the film's director Philip Clyde-Smith had just put the whole thing up online (you have to wait for a film to do the festival circuit first, although of course I was allowed to use some clips for the show-reel) and as the weather's a little cheerier today I thought I'd finally share "Suicide Hotline" with this blog. It was a great gig. I learnt a lot and got to keep the shirt. Filmed in a single take, I suspect both the light and my blocking improved as my performances grew more self-conscious, but we used a later take and that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Mike Fairclough, on the other end of the phone, killed every time. Trigger alerts: nothing graphic, just gloom. Enjoy. And thanks again, Phil.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Everything is fire

A recent timeline of insomniac thoughts illustrated by "The Mitchell Beazley Joy of Knowledge Library's Book Of Man and Society":
2:05am - "No labels"... What’s the difference between “labels” and words? Words themselves can stop communication because their associations are so much stronger than the work they’re being put to do.
2:09am - Language is like fire.
2:11am - Not just language. Jokes as well. I'm thinking of the reaction to the Gorilla Channel tweet. Of course Trump doesn't spend seventeen hours a day watching a specially constructed compilation of gorillas fighting broadcast from a secret transmitter on the White House lawn. Of course it's fine to share that joke. Of course this isn't "fake news". And yet I know people - friends on facebook - genuinely scared of sharing that joke, not because it will give offense, but because it might now be believed.

2:20 am - Everything is fire. Everything that defines us as separate from animals can destroy us if allowed to run unchecked: jokes, language, money, homes (and therefore property), love. All of it can become too important. Being human demands an attention to the equilibrium. Nothing can run unchecked. The past year has been a real lesson in that... I hope. A lot of people are newly terrified but the threat's always been there.
2:28am - “Intelligent life” is too rosy a description of what we are. Intelligence is a part of what humans are, sure, but maybe it’s this capacity to create systems that endanger us that should define us and define what we have in common with whatever we hope to make contact with outside of our own planet, so not “intelligent life” then, but... what? Dependent? Processing? Enhanced? Trapped? Artificious? Harvesting? Is there a word for this most fundamental human quality? What’s the label I’m now looking for?
2:29am -There are definitely people who will have written about this. I should read more.
3:08am - Leia gets nothing to do in "Empire Strikes Back". She’s the driving force of the films either side of it. It is not the best Star Wars Film.
3:10am to 5:25am -

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Ear Plugs

But first, a belated...

Or not. We'll see. I'm going to try and use the blog a lot more this year at least. I wrote nothing last year, not just here but in general, unless you count the slew of comments about The Last Jedi I posted on Joel Morris' f*c*b**k page over the Holidays (WHY EVEN BRING BB-8?) so in 2018 I hope to be less reactive in my internet activity, and more... I don't know... hermetic?

Before I get to work on that insomniac mind-punch however, this week sees me clowning around NOT ONLY in London's glittering and highly monitered West End BUT ALSO in TWO consecutive pleasings on the Radio 4, so let's rinse out that bin and FISH OUT THOSE PLUGS!

THIS EVENING, at half past six, you can hear Angstrom... pronounced "ARNGstrom", and narrated by ME! Half of the retakes were because I pronounced it wrong. I also play Angstrom's boss "Bols Aashol" - a further third of the retakes were me buggering that name up too. Here is a picture of the Swedish Meatball Hot Wrap I bought in the lunch break to research my accent:

And TOMORROW EVENING at half past six you can hear the second episode of series SEVEN of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme. Go on, kiss your ears! Here is a picture of the effect episode one had on the internet:


And if twenty-three and a half hours is too long a wait between those two doses of me, why not ALSO buy a ticket to tomorrow's as-yet-unsold-out matinee of our London run of The Hound of the Baskervilles?

Or, if you can't get a ticket, why not listen to all SIX episodes of the Wireless Theatre Company's Adventures of Drayton Trench, recorded at London's Museum of Comedy which is smaller than the Radio Theatre?

OR download my appearance on International Waters back in September recorded in a big egg on Dean Street?

OR listen to the thrilling latest episode of the now AWARD-WINNING Monster Hunters - "Queen of the Yeti Men" (which I'm not in)? Here is the award!

Yes! I won an award! AND why not vote for Time Spanner over on the British Comedy Guide and give me another one? EH?

End of plugs. Heartfelt details to follow.

Wireless photo by Mike Tomlinson
Happy New Year image care of this.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Shapeshifting Vegetables

Speaking of "The Adventure Game", what should we give Uncle?

Series Three saw Charmian Gradwell get interactive with the kids, inviting them to call in with gift suggestions for "Uncle" - an alien despot who had, in a Douglas-Adamsian twist that seems to have gone over most callers' heads, adopted the form of a grumbling aspidistra steered around the studio floor by Kenny Baker inside a cardboard plinth. Nothing in "The Adventure Game" could be described as slick, by any decade's standards, but these call-ins from 1984 provide a particularly sweet illustration of just how few fucks could be given back in the day, not just on behalf of the show's Pebble Mill production-team, but nation-wide...

Now, both of these clips were posted to my instagram account a while ago. That's one of the places I've been hiding out these past months, playing with faces, not blogging. Dipping. I got an iphone before I went to Frankfurt back in May, downloaded some apps, and pretty much everything I feared might happen to my attention happened. Did we all read this brilliant article on the "silicon Valley refuseniks" who woke up to the addictiveness of the apps they helped create and, more specifically, updates - comparing them to the pull of a one-armed bandit? So yes I became a creature of appetite, fidgety and unblogging. But I did make these...

In short however, I'm going to resolve yet again not to shun boredom so much next year.
Oh and yeah, check out my instagram!