Archive for the ‘Gigs And The Like’ Category

I Played Bloody GLASTONBURY!

I’ve been performing comedy since the turn of the millennium, and been a solo comedy cabaret minstrel specialising in absolute filth and Tory abuse for over a decade. But as you may have guessed – and as is probably wise – I have no intention of ‘making it’ as a performer whatsoever. I don’t think it’s wank or swank to say that I’m a damn good MC and I do miss making a bit of cash from performing at burlesque and the like, but above all, what I’m interested in is the experience of a gig, and sewing badges on my performer’s uniform. Getting a gig at Glastonbury is one of the tippest-toppest performer badges I could get, and finally, this year, I managed it.

Bath has its own little enclave at Glastonbury going right back to the start of the Festival, and it’s the Bandstand. I was supposed to play it last year, but it always clashes with Ludlow Fringe, so it’s never quite happened up till now. Having bagged the gig, 2pm on Saturday 24th, and living in Bath, I was intending to make a day of it, but friends ridiculed me out of that cowardice, and with a loaned pop-up tent, I made a weekend of it instead, and am very glad I did (although my total lack of camping experience made the 3 or 4 hours’s kip I got, hanging onto a cliff-edge in a wet sock, a less than luxurious experience, must do better). I mean, I was never going to spend £250 of my own money on going to Glastonbury – I missed Macca in 2004 and Bowie in 2003, or whenever it was, so all impetus had pretty much gone. But free entry was our only payment, so I made the most of it – I saw Billy Bragg (14th time, I think), I saw Ralph McTell in the Leftfield tent, and got to shout ‘DO STREETS OF LONDON!’ at him, I saw Alison Moyet, Squeeze and Radio Active again, and got caught in the human meatloaf that filled a square half-mile when Jeremy Corbyn took to the stage, so we could hardly hear anything, and see the odd giant ear through branches, as we heaved and groaned in an immovable crowd. Proper ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers’ stuff. Besides the constant battle between horrible food and more horrible shit for attacking your nostrils at every turn, it’s an experience I wouldn’t have missed for toffee.

As for my own Tory-bashing set? WELL HERE IT IS ANYWAY, but it’s an awful recording of a wonderful hour. It’s not good enough for Soundcloud, but I will keep the Dropbox link here for a while, if folk are interested/masochistic. The Bandstand (which wasn’t the humble sideshow I presumed, but had a large and lush hospitality suite where I could charge my phone, and made it my home for days) is in the Marketplace, very near the Pyramid stage, and you have to attract passers-by. Despite Jools Holland and friends making jet engine-volume noise over the way, this I feel I managed to do quite admirably. It was a pleasure to see festival-goers strolling by, looking up, half-realising ‘Hang on, this one’s actually got some words worth listening to’ amid an ocean of far more technical talent-evidencing muzak, and then they’d stop, listen more, and laugh. Loads of people began to stop and pay attention, and even at my most annoyingly modest and glib, I can’t pretend they’re weren’t absolutely creasing themselves up at my filth. So, although this recording gives only the barest idea of what larks my set provided, I was unusually happy that I’d struck home.

And I spent the rest of my time attempting to subliminally promote Tales Of Britain, to no avail. But maybe next year… What? 2019? Bollocks.

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Bath Plug Award 2017: BAZ!

Well, another Bath Comedy Festival tucks itself up in bed, and levity flies from the city once again for another year. This was a particularly light year for me, as my usual multiple duties mainly boiled down to just performing at Moles club on Sunday 9th, for this year’s FUNNY NOISES: MY LOVELY HORSE!

True, a few days before I enjoyed the honour of introducing the arrival of I’M SORRY I’LL READ THAT AGAIN, AGAIN in our city, explaining my part in the original scripting of the show, and my suggestion in The Clue Bible all those years ago, and even playing Bill Oddie’s immortal BLIMPHT before the real new Wonder Team took to the stage. It really does make for the most extraordinarily hilarious night, and there are still plenty of shows to go, so check out:
http://www.offstagetheatregroup.com

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Offstage Theatre boss Barnaby Eaton-Jones and I – there’s a chap who knows how to get things done…

And indeed, the night before that, I was honoured to get up on stage as soon as Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden had finished their show at the Wiltshire Music Centre near Bradford-on-Avon, to present Baz with this year’s Bath Plug Award. He’s a long-standing patron of the festival, and of course I owe my entire career to a phone call he made to me after I wrote some fanzine articles on ISIRTA and ISIHAC about 12 years ago, so it’s all his fault I’m so poor! But the funny thing is, all these years I’ve never really drunk with Barry, which seems remiss, but I always respected his privacy, which it turns out is not at all what he wants, he wants a laugh and a pint. And that night we all had quite a few. It wouldn’t be the Bath Comedy festival without getting legless with a true comedy legend at some point.

baz.jpgBCF boss Nick Steel, Baz, Ronnie, and I. Nick and I still look like bouncers.

Ordinarily we have a special event for the Bath Plug, but as I said on stage, it turns out that the very last possible question about comedy that Barry had never been asked was used up by Matthew Sweet at the Melton Mowbray Comedy Festival in 2013, so we thought it best to save him the inquisition. Interviewing Barry Cryer is the comedy equivalent of playing Stairway To Heaven on a shop guitar.

But questioning him over numerous beers is a very different thing, and a great night was had by all, including his partner Ronnie Golden and Bath festival boss Nick Steel, as we heard about Max Miller and Willie Rushton (the campaign to create a Rushton tribute book starts here) and many other comedy jewels which littered the carpet all night long. A night to cherish – and Baz being Baz, he even had the decency to ring up the next day when safely back home in Hatch End, to thank MA for such a great night!

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Uncle Simon, Auntie Zoob, Stepmummy Bea and Mama Rhi, plus Daddy Jem, making folky funny noises at Moles Club, April 2017.

And so Sunday’s mellow musical gala was my main worry for this year’s festival, and it was certainly the most laid back one of all, which has just left me otherwise working on Soupy Twists day in, day out… but I am no more than one decent day’s work away from completing that, my fourth book, and so a big announcement is in the offing…

FUNNYNOISES17

UNREHEARSED THEATRE

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MAKE YOUR OWN ENTERTAINMENT.

Having spent most of my life showing off on stage in some form or other, from Ludlow to Aberystwyth to Brighton, London and Edinburgh, to Bath and Bristol et cetera – and having expended endlessly more sweat, currency and love on every evening’s entertainment than was probably logical… Well, frankly, in recent years my main aim has been to find the single most perfectly lazy way of sharing some kind of performance with friends and kind strangers, offering a good night out with the minimum of prep.

UKEAOKE was the ideal way of arsing about in lackadaisical limelight for a fair few years, while a working Unrelated Family Band held together (before The Great Drummer Famine of 2012), and it remains a lovely musical show to dust off if the opportunity is there.

But since Halloween 2012, TUF has been pissing about merrily with the idea of UNREHEARSED THEATRE, advertising a theatrical presentation which is not just unrehearsed, but uncast – and at least it’s free.

Ideally the concept is that any script which is freely available online can be summoned up on smartphones, iPads, tablets and the like at a second’s notice, using wi-fi – and then you have all you need to put on a show. Pint in one hand, script in another, silly hat on, and – CURTAIN UP! In theory…

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Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane.

UNREHEARSED MACBETH was the pilot scheme that Halloween at the Love Lounge, The Bell Inn, Bath – actually, come to think of it, which I do, they’ve all been at The Bell. With a few rudimentary props – a crown, some swords, a few decorative giant flowers for Birnam Wood etc., the conceit was that anyone could show up with the text in any form, and claim their part – while others were also just welcome to watch the bedlam unfold (and then Lawrie Duckworth’s Playgroup open mike would follow immediately after).

The whole thing balanced on a knife edge, to be honest, but thanks to our incredible Lady M, Muriel Lavender, and her family, plus a random chap called Sam who appeared out of nowhere, and a whole cast of Bell irregulars, Shakespeare’s horror totally caught fire that evening. There’s a terrible cliché about theatre, and especially Shakespeare, connecting with everyone and coming to life in the strangest places, but Unrehearsed Macbeth certainly proved it to be true, to us. Undeniably dodgy-looking well-oiled geezers who seemed just as likely to punch me in the face as the concept was first explained turned out to be secret McKellens, there were cheers as the swordfights got out of hand, and by 9pm, and ‘Scone’, the comradely adrenaline was positively chewable. The FB Event page is still viewable right about here.

But then the problem became apparent – that’s Macbeth for you. Billy Shakes’ fastest, coolest, darkest action thriller of all. We got away with that, but pretty much anything else from the oeuvre, necessarily uncut because we could only use the most convenient text, would probably have imploded – Hamlet would barely reach Act 3 before everyone was pissed. One way or another.

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Jem Roberts, Gavin Lazarus and Matt Bragg are not actual Victorians.

In fact, that is what happened with UNREHEARSED A CHRISTMAS CAROL a few weeks later – though we did get the first Stave polished off before skipping to the end. This time we were in the more public front of the pub and raising money for Comic Relief, so it’s a shame I hadn’t already realised the obvious solution to the problem – MOVIE SCREENPLAYS. There are huge troves of scripts available in places like www.simplyscripts.com and when you flub over the credits, cinematic longueurs and action sequences (car chases being particularly tough to achieve in pubs), they only tend to take an hour or so from first reel to tragic denouement. If I’d linked everyone to one of the many scripted versions of Dickens’ story, we could have avoided the obvious embarrassment of the full text theoretically taking several hours…

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Xmas Past Jem, Scrooge Gavin and also non-Victorian Claire Johnson are close to admitting festive defeat.

And so followed UNREHEARSED DRACULA for Hallowe’en 2013, using the original Universal Bela Lugosi screenplay (daft as a larch though it is), with Mr Lazarus returning for the title role – plus Lawrie, two Matts, Lauren, Jess, Peter, and dudes whose names I forget, but dudes they were. I didn’t even get to be in this one, having to narrate and play the part of a rubber bat on a bit of string, but it was a thrilling way to spend an early Hallowe’en evening, and we got away with it yet again…

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The cast of Unrehearsed Dracula think they’re the cast of Peter’s bleeding Friends or something.

… But the annoying thing is, ‘getting away with it’ really isn’t quite as good as UNREHEARSED THEATRE can be. It has to be edge-of-seat stuff, but first you need to know you’re going to have everything relatively in place…

When we tried UNREHEARSED BLACKADDER on a sunny Sunday afternoon out in the Bell courtyard as part of the Bath Comedy Festival, again for Comic Relief, there was too much of an emphasis on begging to get anyone to stick on a wig, wrap themselves in a curtain and take part. Very often there are one or two absolute heroes who will just make an event like this happen, and this time, as well as Matt Bragg taking part throughout, the discovery of Gemma de Carteret – an utterly syllable-perfect tribute to Miranda Richardson’s brilliance in every role – was the saving grace (plus her splendid friends who we basically had to pressgang).

Although we managed to get through one episode from each series and make half the boozers laugh (and raise, um, fifty quid), one thing was becoming horrible apparent: UNREHEARSED THEATRE wasn’t going to work without one modicum more actual organisation. I’m a flaky sod at the best of times, but although this was conceived as a bit of a laugh, there’s no doubt that just crossing my fingers and hoping this will work is more stressful than it should be.

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Jem, Matt and Gemma de Carteret perform the balcony scene…
I may be no Hugh Laurie, but least I’m more the size of the actual George IV.

So this is a call-out to any south-west performers, show-offs and strangers – we need to create more of an UNREHEARSED THEATRE community if there’s to be any more performances, either for charity or purely for laughs. This isn’t just a ‘script reading group’, we just do everything we can to fully perform the story, without any prior rehearsal.

What’s the point of it? Well for professional performers, it is a great work out, to portray a character’s whole story arc in an hour or two from a standing start, just downloading your dialogue onto your phone (admittedly you need good eyesight, and good wi-fi). But for anyone else, it’s a way of enjoying the sensation of entertaining a crowd, of being part of a unique cast just for an hour or two… without all the bother of learning lines, changing costumes, doing the same thing again night after night. And if we can get it working right, it’s also a memorable night of frenetic, ridiculous one-off entertainment even for those who just turn up to watch.

Sifting through online script databases, so many possibilities present themselves – Unrehearsed An American Werewolf In London? Monty Python & The Holy Grail? Casablanca? Or perhaps less cinematic freely available scripts, Unrehearsed Twelfth Night or A Doll’s House or The Birthday Party? Some people have a problem with reading from phones, it is a bit squinty, but then there’s always the option of sharing PDFs ourselves, if anyone would like to arrange a script. The thing is, if there’s a community of people who are generally up for taking part, anyone can come up with an idea for an evening’s entertainment – but this time, we wouldn’t book a venue or put up posters for the show until we had at least a ‘Reduced Shakespeare Company’-sized cast who could manage to get up and do the show, each totally committed to being there, and of course bringing along as many people as possible.

But most importantly of all, still not rehearsing so much as one word in advance.

A really good show could raise lots of money, and definitely beat a night with the curtains drawn gawping at a boxset. So email jemquitegood@yahoo.co.uk or search UNREHEARSED THEATRE on FB, and you could be the star of a new live adaptation of Goonies in no time.

I Am Not A Man, I Am A Human Being

I Am Not A Man, I Am A Human Being

A favourite at Burlesque nights. Well, the crowds are mainly female…

Fry & Laurie & Heavy Metal

Oh, and by the way, yes, there’s also this…

 

For any Hugh Laurie / Heavy and/or Light Metal fans out there.

It all goes so almost well by my standards until ‘Big Bottom’, where sadly I lose whatever thread I had, flee from the key and start impercetibly growling. No sound check, you see. Loud noise. And no talent. Luckily, at least you can’t see my face.

The Unrelated Family: Rutles Megamix

It’s been a long time, now I’m coming back home – I’ve been away now, oh how… Hm. But I thought I’d just underline the point that I have next-to-no shame by openly sharing this video on what we might call this ‘blog’ affair.

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We in The Unrelated Family do aim to one day follow in the footsteps of the true greats like The Idiot Bastard Band, with live renditions of original and classic comedy numbers, novelty shite and geeky oddities. Until then, well, this is us raising a few ponies for rather good causes and &c.

Anyway, with hideous ingratiating apologies to Neil Innes – not to mention The Beatles – this was the sweaty, sodden finale* of The Unrelated Family’s Comic Relief Show for the Bath Comedy Festival 2013 – COMIC NOISES. As performed at The Bell Inn, Bath on Friday April 5th. Our staining tribute to the Pre-Fab Four: to DIRK, STIG, NASTY AND BARRY, with love from JEMBLE, EMILY, MATT LAWRIE, SIMON AND GAVIN. It’s relatively spot-on by our usual standards, and contains much forelock-waggling.

Hope it makes you sick.**

THE UNRELATED FAMILY: RUTLES MEGAMIX

*Well, no – Cook & Moore’s ‘Goodbye’ was the self-imposed encore.

**Not really, I’m a total turtle dove frood.***

***And on very strong painkillers, should any of this text seem particularly untoward in its tiresomely multisyllabic and directionless… oh look, it’s a hot-air balloon with a bra on it, excuse me.