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As if a weekend which included time with a friend, AND Neil Gaiman, AND Tori Amos, AND Vikings, wasn't enough, this past weekend also included a trip into Bristol to see a performance on the live tour of 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue' ISIHAC is one of my favourite radio shows, and I went to live recording several years ago (Long enough ago that it was presented by Humphrey Lyttleton, although I think it may have been his last series)

When I booked my ticket for the matinee on Saturday, I didn't know about Neil's British Library event, but worked out that I'd have time to get back..which it turned out I did :-)

The show is part of a live tour, not recorded for the radio, which is fun, as it meant there were no re-takes or sound checks.

The show is hosted by Jack Dee, and the team members were Barry Cryer, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Jeremy Hardy, with Colin Sell on the piano. The Lovely Samantha, alas, was delayed and unable to attend :)

Coming into the auditorium, the first thing which I noticed was the kazoo on each seat... (and shortly afterwards, it became clear that the initial response of people offered a free kazoo (or at least, of Radio 4 listeners offered a free kazoo) is to try to use it to play 'Colonel Bogey'!

Once the show started, it ran through all of the  different games we know and love from the radio - Uxbridge Dictionary, Just a Minim, Sound Charades, One Song to the tune of Another (during which we were scolded for laughing at Jeremy 'Music is his Life' Hardy) and, of course, Mornington Crescent. (with some particularly fine plays, I must say!)

It was lots of fun.

And now I have a 'Mornington Crescent' mug.
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I mentioned in my previous blogs that this was a VERY busy weekend for me. The final event (again, booked long before I knew Neil would be in town) was Bill Bailey's live show - Qualmpeddler.




I've seen Bill Bailey twice before, and he did not disappoint. Having booked early (benefits of being on the mailing list) I found that I was seated in the 3rd row of the stalls, which was nice (if loud).

The show is almost all new material - and covers ground from Danish TV murders, to badgers, to internet acronyms. There was a song about Quantum Physics (shades of Mitch Benn!)

Bill also made his views of 'celebrity' know (He's a little vague, but I think he's against it...) he critiqued the quality of the heckling, and there was a certain amount of clapping along..

Oh, and a discussion about how no phrasebook, ever, includes the phrase "You use the oven glove to hold the owl, I will cut the sellotape off using the nail scissors". Apparently Bill needed that phrase while in China. (Yes, the story is just as weird as it sounds)

It was a lot of fun.


Sunday night was the last stop on the current leg of the tour (The first time I saw him was in Bristol, on the last night of his tour, and his Roadies put glue on one of the parts of the set so his shoe stuck to it part way through the set. Nothing of that kind this time, although he did at one point get down from the stage, and had a certain amount of difficult getting back on...)

The tour continues in September - if you're anywhere it goes, do go and see him. It's well worth it. Intelligent comedy for the win!
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Charley's Aunt was originally performed in 1892, and ran for 4 years. The current production stars Matthew Horne as Lord Fancourt Babberley, and is excellent!

It is pure, frothy, Victorian farce. Horne is excellent as Lord Fancourt-Babberley, coerced by his friends into impersonating Charley's aunt, Donna Lucia, in order to act as chaperone so they can see their respective sweethearts.

The plot is, of course, entirely predictable and the ending obvious from the outset, but that in no way detracts from the entertainment value. It has a similar flavour to 'The Importance of Being Ernest', but without the depth...

Matthew Horne is the star of the show but the supporting cast, particularly Jane Asher (Charley's real aunt), are excellent. I think it's fair to say that the male characters are stronger than the female ones, but I think this is down to the writing not the actors - the female characters (other than the real Donna Lucia) are present really only as the love-interests for their respective swains.

All in all, good, clean, undemanding fun. The set was also impressive (although elaborate, which was no doubt why the play had two full intervals, rather than just a quick scene change!)

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Jeremy Hardy, who is one of my favourite I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and The News Quiz regulars, is touring at present, and on Friday night he was in Melksham, which is about 5 miles from here, so of course I had to go and see him. I have seen him live before (in May and in November 2009) but not for a while.

It's a very chatty, self-deprecating show, with a lot of political content, but without ever becoming rant-y (be honest. When is the last time you heard a comedy routine which included discussion of (and definition of) 'Anarchic Syndicalism'?) and discussions around the many, many, failings of the Tories and the government, and whether or not Michael Gove is human..

The show also ranged over age, cats and dogs, the Olympics, the jubilee, Danes (well, Sandi Toksvig mostly) differences between men and women (relating to packing, mostly, according to Mr Hardy).

It was a very entertaining evening.
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Last week, on twitter, I spotted a message from Bath Theatre Royal, mentioning that Russell Brand would be appearing for a one-off gig there on Sunday night. It sounded like fun, so I booked a ticket. (It's just as well I did. They seem to have sold out very quickly)

I mostly went out of curiosity - I think Brand can be very funny, and at other times.. not, so I went along hoping to be entertained.

I was.

The show opened with warm up from poet Mr G, who managed to move from comedy to poetry and back without missing a beat (literally or metaphorically)

Then Russell himself came on. The show was billed as being a warm-up / try out of new material ahead of a bigger tour, but a lot of it was (or seemed) spontaneous - riffing on his visit to Bath and the Abbey, and on the theatre and the set for The Tempest (which is half way through its run)
The set includes two raised balconies, and inevitably Russell ended up climbing up the ladder, playing with the drums, and nervously coming down with the assistance of James - a very good-looking volunteer from the audience!


I think Russell Brand is possibly one of the few people who could move seamlessly from a visit to Bath Abbey to a new story about bestiality. and then there was the whole part where Russell ended up swapping his socks with  another audience member. And stories about performing in the Olympic closing ceremony.

I was very favourably impressed - and glad I'd followed the impulse to buy a ticket!
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This weekend should be fun.

On Friday night I have a ticket to see 'The Tempest' in Bath, Saturday is the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who, and on Sunday Russell Brand is in Bath doing a live show prior to a new tour, which should be fun.

I'm guessing that housework is going to take a back seat again this weekend.

I'm feeling fairly relaxed about that.
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am signed up to Bill Bailey's mailing list, and as a result, I heard that he was doing two shows at Ilfracombe's Landmark Theatre as warm up for his new 'Dandelion Mind (gently modified)' tour, and, as Ilfracombe is only about 20 minutes from my parents' home, it seemed like a good opportunity to see Bill Bailey and my parents, in one fell swoop.



 
Pretty picture of the Landmark
Theatre (photo from theatre website)
It was not 100%  successful, as it turned out that my Mum and Dad were actually away all day on Saturday, but we did meet briefly as I popped in for coffee on my way past, en route to the theatre, and again on my return, for about 10 minutes before we went to bed.

The show was great.

I saw the 'Dandelion Mind' show last September (Blogged it here ) and this version of the show has some of the same material, with some new -
including bots about 'Broken Britain' - I particularly enjoyed Bill's comments about the Coalition "It's like being governed by a bowl of pot pourri and a sea-cucumber" (which is one of the few descriptions I can remember, most of the others were more insulting. I kept expecting 'Cream-faced loon' to come up!

Other highlights included some art appreciation, a rendition of 'Scarborough Fair', in German, not to mention a song after the style of
'Chas'n'Dave', (during their Devil Worshipping phase).

Oh, and California Dreaming' at different speeds, which is much funnier than you might think.

I had a great evening, and I'm really glad I went, as although the tour has dates all through November, none of them is near me.

This morning, my parents were leaving at some ungodly hour 7a.m. but did stick their heads round the bedroom door to say good morning and goodbye, and to bring me a cup of tea, before the left. I then went back to sleep, pottered around a bit, and then went on a long, meandering
drive on my way home. (I'd planned to visit a couple of picturesque bits of Exmoor, and go for a couple of short walks and take pretty pictures, but unfortunately it started to rain very heavily at just the wrong moment, so in the end I ended up driving around some very narrow Devon lanes (albeit some of them with nice views) without any walks.

On arriving home I found my next door neighbours have moved out, and some new ones have moved in. I hope they are nice and quiet! The old ones were nice people, but had a very yappy little dog which got hysterical every time I went into my garden...

Tomorrow, I am going to see Fascinating Aida, and if it is a nice day I may go to Stourhead, as it's supposed to be at it's best, for the autumn colours, this weekend. (So it will probably pour with rain all day!) I went around this time last year, and got some gorgeous pics..


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Last night found me in Bath once again, even though it was a work night and I was knackered and feeling somewhat battered, due to my visit to the Chiropractor on Wednesday (of which more later) 
 
I was in Bath because the fabulous Mr Mitch Benn was there, performing at Komedia. I haven't been to Komedia before. I've previously seen Mitch at the Rondo Theatre, which is a nice but tiny theatre on the edge of Bath - a bit like a pub with tiered seating. 
 
Komedia is a converted cinema, all red and blue and gold and fancy plasterwork, and an echo. 
And Mitch Benn is a comedian and singer, and if you don't know him and all his works, you should. Go here and look, go here and download. You know you want to. 
 
Anyway, I had fortified myself with a nice half of Bellringer Beer and some rather disappointing potato wedges at a pub down the road (Memo to the Westgate Pub - please check the definition of 'crispy' as it applies to bacon, and do not raise expectations which you cannot satisfy) and so was already beginning to de-stress by the time I got to Komedia.
 
Mr Benn certainly competed the de-stressing process! Having been to several of his gigs before I knew pretty much what to expect . There were lots of songs I was familiar with - 'Sing Like an Angel', 'Size Zero', 'African Baby' 'Now He's Gone' & IKEA.  
 
There was the wonderful 'Macbeth'

Mitch commented that if you hang around with Thespians, then sooner or later, one of them will come out with the old chestnut that if Shakespeare were alive today, he'd be writing Eastenders. Mitch's comment was that no he bloody wouldn't (Doctor Who, maybe, "he's been in it, after all, and Neil' s doing it, so Shakespear can't be far behind" )
 

'Macbeth' is his take on what Shakespeare might, in fact, write if he were around now. And it's Awesome!



We also had some newer songs; such as the topical "The Pope Wants Vicars" (Which won my heart by rhyming 'Saint Thomas Aquinas' with 'scared of vaginas', and the song which definitely got the biggest cheers of the evening - 
 
"Proud of the BBC" which is a response to all the selfish tightfisted bastards  individuals who begrudge paying the licence fee and want to destroy privatise the BBC.  It ROCKS. And I especially liked the 'FUCKFUCKFCKFUCKStart again' in the second line, although I suspect that may not actually be part of the official lyrics...
 
Mitch also did his 'write a new song during the interval' party piece - based on suggstions from the audience about topical news stories, which you've got to admit is impressive. 
 
All in all, it was a great evening, and I came home with my very own 'Proud of the BBC' T-Shirt.

Of course, the one small fly in my ointment was that being a Thursday night, I still had to get up & go to work in the morning, but what the hell..

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On Monday evening I wended my way back into Bath, to the Little Theeatre Cinema, for an evening with the always charming and erudite Mr Stephen Fry. Not, alas, in person - His Tweediness was at the Royal Festival Hall in London, but the wonders of modern tecchnology meant that his talk was to be live broadcast to about 60 cinemas up & down the country, Bath Little Theatre being one of them.

I dithered about going, becuase while it is a lovely little cinema, it isn't exactly cheap, and in addition I am going to be seeing Mr Fry on Friday, when he is speaking in Cambridge, but I decided it would be worth it, as  I suspect he won't be working from a script, and anyway, I could be prevented by a sudden meteorite strike or soemthing from going to Cambridge...

 
I'm glad I went. I had fun. Mr Fry read some short extract from his new book - one about sugar puffs, one about school, and one about meeting Hugh Laurie for the first ime. in beteen times, he talked, apparently without notes or preplanning.

 
He had a list of the various cinemas where the event was being screened, so took time to say hello to eveyone (except the places beginning with "C", who were accidentally missed out) together with a few asies about the various places, and some speculation about where 'Gorey' is - Mr Fry knew of the artist, Edward Gorey, but not the place (which is, it urns out, on Jersey)

 
there was some chat about Blackadder, with indidental impressions of some of those involved - ovely to hear Mr Fry imperonating Mr Atkinson and Mr Laurie, not to mention his description of taking Ben Elton, that well known leftie, to dinner at the Carlton Club (bastion of Old Tory politics) and startling Lord Hailsham...
Wonderful stuff.

 
And you know, I don't really care whether he says all the same things in Cambridge. I'd be quite happy to watch it all again . and I'm going to buy the book.

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Friday didn't start well. A problem which is not my fault but which will take a lot of sorting out showed up, then I had a meeting which took 3 and a half hours and meant I missed lunch, which wasn't ideal, especially as it was my last day in the office for a week, and I'd already been in court for 2 days this week.

However, at around 5 it started to improve. I caught a train, then another train (the second one was late, which is annoying, but I had a little time in hand, and it would have been worse had it been the first train which was late, as that would have meant missing the connection.

 
I got to London at 8, and just had time to drop off my bag at the hostel I was staying at before heading off to Bill Bailey's show in Leicester Square.

 
By virtue of having booked very early on, I had managed to get a seat in the centre of the 2nd row, and I had time to get myself a pint of beer before the show started. The theatre is a nice, small one - in a basement, so is quite snug.

 
The show is a wam up for Bill's Dublin show and has some new material - alking about Doubting Thomas, and Darwinism, for instance, and some which was familiar from the Tinselworm show - tales of barnacles, and playing the Oud, for instance.

There was some audience participation in singing 'California dreaming' at varying speeds, a wonderful suggestion about how Michael Winner hould be treated, and the joy of hearing Bill sing 'Hallelujah' in the style of Kraftwerk..not mention mockry of West country accent, and a wonderful rendition of 'Cars'

I can't remember last time I literally laughed till I wept.

If you get a chance see the show, do it. You won't regret it.

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So, the Frome Festival is currently taking place - it's now in its 10th year, and would, I think, best be described as a general arts festival - it tends to have a variety of events which can include classical music, jazz, art exhibitions, local interest, comedy and books.

I have been to one or two events in the past, but often find that the things I am interested in are either sold out almost immediately, or are mid-week while I'm at work.

This year, however, I managed to get a ticket to see "Paul Merton's Impro Chums" at the Memorial Theatre, on Tuesday evening.

It was great fun! Paul Merton was appearing with 4 other comedians - Richard Vranch, Suki Webster, Andy Smart and Phil (whose second name I unfortunately didn't catch). As the name suggests, it was an evening of improvisation, with different sketches and games incorporating suggestions from the audience. If you've ever watched the TV show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" you will get the general idea.

I admit that it added to the amusement for me, to have one of my suggestions taken up :-)

Excellent evening, and a great opportunity to see performers who aren't usually to be found in small rural towns!

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