All posts by Toby

Will There Be Any Stars, Any Stars …?

EDINBURGH FRINGE 2010 REPORT NUMBER TWO

Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th

“Hey Tobes, are you up in Edinburgh for the month? If so, do you fancy helping out a little with my show? I need someone dressed as a tiger to get hurled onto a grenade where he explodes in a sea of orange polystyrene. Have you ever played that before??!” That text could only have come from Adam Riches. I worked with him a lot doing daft but brilliant plays in Manchester. He packed his bags for London where I was sure he’d become an overnight success. It’s taken a bit longer than that, but he’s had deserved hits at the Fringe in the past few years, mustering a raft of  superb (Four And Five Star) reviews that justly herald his gift for batty, charmingly silly comedy and performances of winningly idiotic chutzpah. Not even the most cynical can fail to smile at his stuff, so who am I to refuse to play a tiger for the man who has cast me in the past as a superhero’s cocky agent, a Diabolo-wrangling gypsy, and a half man/half Dalek? Be good to catch up too. He has a rare gift for not allowinging the inherent annoyances of this business effect him – he just knuckles down, grafts away, and produces reams and reams of comedy gold without fail. But I suspect he’s a terrible, selfish lover.

Next day – “Toby, I’ve cut the skit, so you can hang up your paws”. Damn, sacked before I’ve even begun. Story of my career! I’d spent the whole night channelling my inner Tony (it’s Grrrrrrreat!) and watching old ESSO adverts. Then, on Sunday “Toby – great news, Tiger is back!”. So I’m not the only one making last minutes changes to my show!

Anyway, I won’t spoil the gag by revealing any more than I have above, but suffice to say Adam Riches Rides is terrific – and he’s selling out already (not by accepting an OBE or doing adverts for McDonald’s or genocide, I mean all his tickets are being bought). It’s a joy to participate in the most infinitesimal way to something so inventive and funny. It opens with a song in which Pierce Brosnan outs himself as a Centaur. That’s all you need to know. (Five stars)

The Original Plan Had Been To One Day Play Hamlet

As I won’t be seeing my wife until the 1st of September, Saturday and Sunday were precious times with her, mostly used for swatting up on the show. She made me revise and remember the rigorous order and not forget to get all the loose ends tied up. She really helped (All The Stars In The Sky).

Performances were nicely attended and jolly. Still missing bits out: nothing major, but I’m still not making the ending as neat a series of payoffs as I should be. The shows have been running to time, which is a major consideration, though Saturday was the first night they made me work, where the satirical second half went down better than the nostalgic first. This is a good thing, but it meant I had to be on my toes, and I responded by pacing about a little too much. Agent, promoter and friend Lee Martin was in, who told me to put a table on stage for my drink so I didn’t pace about so much, like Simon Cowell on the prowl, dancing about in anticipation of feasting upon the soft, pliable carcass of a newborn baby.

Having missed one interview because (thinks of any number of excuses …) I forgot (No Stars Hadoke), I then mistook the Pleasance Courtyard for The Pleasance Dome and went to the wrong place for another. Still, everyone seems pretty calm at the moment, apart from a testy antipodean homuculous techie-type I encountered throwing out far too much machismo for a Lilipution wrangling a prop of an afternoon. I rose above it (which was quite easy considering).

Flatmate and superb comic Jason Cook (Five Stars, every time) is doing predictably well, and together we’re creating our own modern day Never The Twain as he plays upon the supposed charm of his salt-of-the-earth ignorance and I introduce him to eclectic foodstuffs (“This is an anchovy”) and the concept of literature. As usual, he takes much of what I say that is funny and Tweets it or quotes it in his set and gets the laughs for himself. The cuckoo. Or leach. Or twat.

With my lovely wife gone (The Stars Have All Gone Out), I forced myself to honour a commitment to perform at Free And Freakin’ Awesome Comedy Showcase at Bannerman’s for Ro Campbell – simple premise, Ro goes on and gets some comics to be funny. I didn’t really want to do it and thought it’d be either ill-attended by the dead, or well attended by the riotous. It was actually packed with lovely people, Ro did a great job, and I had a lot of fun unleashing all the swearwords and bile I have elected not to use in my BBC show. On that issue, I have got myself another review in which I’m described as “charming and likeable” but safe (Three Stars – I lost marks for pacing about too much: guess which show they were in). Safe, me safe??! Have they never seen me caterwaul with rage about trivia at XS Malarkey or The Comedy Store? Oh, maybe they haven’t. That said, I do also think that there’s a lot of noise and swearing that gets mistaken for profundity around these parts … I’m sure Jonathan Swift didn’t yell at eveyone. That said, maybe I’ve been so conscious of being reasonable with the message and intent of the show, that I’ve left a bit of my passion in the fridge to cool. Maybe I need to get it out and add some spice to give it some much needed heat. Then people will enjoy eating it. Or something.

Oh, never mind the metaphors – it seems that so far the reviewers love the show, but don’t want to sleep with it yet. I texted that fine Manchester based Irish comic, Caimh McDonnell, who knows a thing or two about doing well in Edinburgh, to that effect. “Don’t worry,” he texted back, “People kept giving my last show fake mobile numbers to get rid of it.”

And I walked up Broughton Street with a big smile on my face, placed there by someone miles away in a different city, but in the right place just when I needed him. (SuperStar)

News, Reviews and Booze (but no Boos).

EDINBURGH FRINGE 2010 REPORT NUMBER ONE

Well the madness has begun: flyers litter the streets and students dressed as pirates line the pavements thinking that the best way to get punters to come to see their thespian hi-jinks in Penzance is to yell at strangers and guffaw in a way only those with a vestige of youthful bravado left in them (soon to be dissipated by tax and broken dreams) can. And God has gleefully placed various ambling types between you and where you want to go, and they shamble along in a zig-zag as you try to get past. Even without clocking you, they manage to anticipate which direction you’re going to take to manoeuvre out of their way and block your path with deadly slowness: ambling human shields, precision-placed and impenetrable, walls of anorak-clad flesh determined to make you late for your fourth gig of the day as you realise you’ve said yes to one too many people.

Anyway: Days One and Two, Thursday 5th and Friday 6th  August

Previewers and Reviewers

A gentle start. A preview, so the pressure is off – just get the freshly honed show out there and in your head Toby. A decent fist of a crowd, enough for you to verbally map out your masterwork, consolidate it, identify the less certain and more fatty passages, and work your arse off on Friday to have it shipshape for preview two when the press are allowed in. And it works – Thursday a workmanlike and slightly (in places) tentative stab at an hour long version of the show that ties up all the loose ends. Some ends where tied more efficiently than others, though. No problem – have a look at those, reinsert forgotten jokes, reorder, and bingo! Friday flows much better and is finally the show as it needs to be, and is performed without too many fumbles. All good. Except, what’s this? Two press in on Thursday and none on Friday? That’s entirely the wrong way around! Dash and crikey. And shit. Oh well. As I wait tentatively and with irritation (it’s no-one’s fault, it was a communication breakdown inevitable in the flurry of the fringe) I have other things to do. One is to appear on Hardeep Singh Kohli’s Chat Masala, and to blog about it. Read about that adventure here.

Not the sort of showbiz circles I usually move in
Not The Sort Of Showbiz Circles I Usually Move In

Not sure I’d have personally given away the punchline in the title of the article, but never mind (Two Stars for that, title writer).

Then to the first F***ing Funny For A Fiver shows (three gigs in one evening on my first night here – perhaps a clue to why my decision to not drink was steadfastly maintained for about seven and a half minutes after show one). I’m compering these intermittently. I use my desire to unwind and my anger at the reviewer situation to fuel an inventive, if slightly long, opening, to prove to myself that I can be witty and spontaneous and delight an audience even without a refined and honed script. Banter, whimsy, comic flights of fancy – they all tumble out and I’m as surprised as anyone, revelling in the heady, freewheeling atmosphere you can only get at the craziness of the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s going well! Good work – karma restored, and the comedy Gods are smiling. They’re also, alas, refilling my wine glass far too quickly and all the heady expectation, disappointment, desire to please and sheer enormity of the situation lead to a rather more, um, wayward second section, where I all but undo the good work done in the first. Karmic balance knocked out of kilter again, resolutely fulfilling its mission to maintain that life is just, well, like that. Still, the comedians in the room enjoy watching the poison of Bacchus unravel my faculties in public, and entertainment that is had is of the kind the Romans would have thoroughly enjoyed. (So, first half, Five Stars, second half … hmm, Two). The other acts on were Mark Allen, Elis James, Sam Gore and The Boy With Tape On His Face who were all excellent. It’s a top notch late night show, albeit one with an occasional compere who promises he’ll never drink again.

Wife And (Good And Bad) Times

I’m sharing a flat with Jason and Clare Cook; this is good news as they’re splendid people who find it amusing when I get angry about things, and it’s far enough away for me to walk off any macaroni cheese pies I’m definitely not going to buy from Greggs, promise. My wife (an undisputed Five Stars, always and forever) has taken the long, six hour trek to Edinburgh to grab two all too short days with me. She arrives just in time for F***ing Funny For A Fiver, which provides perfectly timed evidence that she’d probably be better off if she hadn’t bothered. We had a couple of nice meals – one at a restaurant that shall remain nameless on The Royal Mile, that boasted a fine menu but service that was as enthusiastic but inefficient as a holiday rep attempting to disarm a nuclear missile with a pen-knife and some jam (Three Stars, being generous as it was only the second night). L’Escargot Bleu was a different affair – an authentic French vibe and casually brilliant food at respectable lunchtime prices (Four Stars).

Friday and Saturday saw her help me go through the gig, firm it up in my brain and really work it through, and emerge much better for it. All we could then do was wait for the reviews from Thursday. Out they came and they were fair enough for that first night, although I wish Chortle could extrapolate that a first preview gig from an experienced comic will inevitably tighten up by the time any potential punters arrive. I have to say they have form for not allowing for the symptoms of a preview, and the only criticisms in the review referred to obvious first night flaws rather than problems with the show (so I’ll only give them Two Stars, despite some decent insight and neat phraseology). Nonetheless, it reads like a coveted four star review – though that’s not matched by the rating, so ultimately it’s a missed opportunity for some poster adornment. Slightly disappointing, and a tad churlish, but hey ho, that’s what can happen when you let people in on a preview. A similar story with Three Weeks too, and that’s a publication where the reviewer you’re allocated is a real lottery. You’re often at the mercy of someone who has only got the job because they own a pen. I’ve seen some right howlers in there in the past, so to get one that uses its word count to accurately describe the show and make reasonable criticisms must be chalked up as a win (Three Stars to me, Four Stars to the reviewer).

Anyway, decide for yourselves;

Chortle

Three Weeks

So so far, solid if not sexy. Maybe I flirted with sexiness at my rock ‘n’ roll antics on F***ing Funny For A Fiver (I wished they’d called it Quite Amusing For The Price Of A Lady (Godiva), it’d trip off my tongue with far more élan, frankly), which just goes to show that sometimes, being sexy is no replacement for a mug of Horlicks and a good read.

In A Nutshell

So far (Three Stars).

RICHARD SHAW RIP

RICHARD SHAW

I was rather saddened to recently learn of the death of the actor Richard Shaw. When I first saw the brilliant Quatermass and the Pit many years ago, I was captivated by it, and thrilled at what a complex and sumptuous production it was. I was also taken by many of the performances, but one that really stuck out was that of Richard Shaw as the beleaguered workman Sladden. Initially brought in to do a hush-hush drilling job to get into the hull of the mysterious object buried in Hobbs Lane, he is initially a typical, chirpy, working class character. As the story unfolds, however, he becomes pivotal, being the first to completely succumb to the baleful influence of the Martian inheritance dormant within us all. In a sequence even my Mum remembered from watching all those years ago, he assumes the gait and posture of one of the creatures, as all about him the pit goes haywire. Eventually seeking solace in a churchyard, he collapses to the ground and the gravel beneath him begins to move. Later, under cross examination by Quatermass, he has a vision of life on Mars five million years previously. So many aspects of Shaw’s performance could well have been hokey, and yet he pulled off every one brilliantly. Actors now are well versed in the tropes of science fiction, not so then. It is a performance well ahead of its time, by a largely jobbing character actor who merrily filled the screen both big and small, in roles which similarly filled the spectrum (he has one line in A Night To Remember, and none in The Dirty Dozen, but bigger roles in 633 Squadron and the Doctor Who story The Space Museum in which he was the lead villain). I enjoyed his performance in Quatermass so much that I entered into a correspondence with him. He was the first actor to whom I had plucked up the courage to do this, and the fact that he replied encouraged me to contact more people, and so a teenage pastime was born, which has of course, been greatly useful to me in later life.

As none of my Quatermass archive has been published (bar the use of my photographic collection on the BBC DVD release – in the gallery and booklet), it seems fitting that the original contribution to it should be the first to hit the public domain.

Richard was deeply flattered to have been contacted about his role in the show – “you bring back long lost memories, where have all the years gone?” he asked. Rudolph Cartier had seen him in a play called The Schirmer Inheritance and offered Richard the role of Sladden. “When I read the script I realised it was a very important part and I quote, said thank you, and took the part.” He had fond memories of the cast, and as for producer Rudolph Cartier: “He was the finest director at the BBC, a very hard task master who was a joy to work for and in fact I did eight other plays for him.”

“Sladden was very difficult to play, trying to sustain the level of being twisted and torn by the Martians was very wearing – in those days everything we did was live, though we did do a little on film. During one of my runs through the flying objects I did break my toe. To say it was painful is putting in mildly but I had to keep shooting.” Original Quatermass monster actor Duncan Lamont played Richard’s role in the subsequent feature film, because “I was asked to play it originally but was already committed to another film with Ray Milland so had to say ‘Sorry, I can’t do it’”.

Richard, a humble, charming man, was not one to overplay his importance in the show, and was very happy to be reminded of his work on it, and proud of the serial itself. “I am very aware that I seem to be remembered for my performance in Quatermass, people still come up to me and I am very touched by it. It is gratifying to know my work is appreciated.”

After Quatermass, Richard continued to work over the next few decades, notching up three performances in Doctor Who. His biggest role was in The Space Museum. “Bill Hartnell was a long standing friend and we had worked together many times. When I played Lobos I sustained a severe blow to my left eye which caused some problems for the first episodes but we had to carry on.”

The late Bernard Wilkie recalled that Richard had been extremely co-operative and a joy to work with on his difficult, effects heavy scenes. Patrick Connor (also no longer with us, alas), who played a policeman in the series, also remembered Richard; “He was, to my knowledge, the only actor in the cast to have had only TV and film experience (i.e. none on the live stage). The number of actors without theatre experience had started to grow, and to some degree they were slightly looked down upon by theatre actors. Most of them were a bit aggressive and had a bit of a chip on their shoulder – but I got on with Richard fine”.

Very much one of those “I know the face but…” actors, despite a five decade career in some major productions, it is unlikely that Richard’s passing in April, aged 90, will get the acknowledgement it deserves, so I hope this little corner of the internet serves as some sort of tribute to the man and his work.

Richard Shaw 1920 – 2010, RIP.

Updated Gig List

Just a quick update of what’s where, especially Edinburgh previews (the last one, in Huddersfield, was a blast):

GIG UPDATE

Tuesday 13th July
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC, Jason Cook Edinburgh Preview)

Wednesday 14th July
Robin Ince’s Book Club, Bloomsbury Theatre (with Josie Long, Phill Jupitus and others)

Tuesday 20th July
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC, Markus Birdman and Brendon Burns Edinburgh Previews)

Thursday 22nd July
Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf – Lowestoft

Sunday 25th July
Now I Know My BBC (Preview) – Lancaster

Tuesday 27th July
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC Dan Nightingale, Seymour Mace, Gary Delaney Edinburgh Previews)

Wed 28th July
Oxford – Now I Know My BBC (Preview)

Thurs 30th July

London, New Diorama – Now I Know My BBC (Preview)

Fri 30th July
Worksop – Now I Know My BBC (Preview)

Sat 31st July
Bristol Tobacco Factory – Now I Know My BBC (Preview)

Tues 3rd August
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC, with Alun Cochrane Edinburgh Preview)

August 2010

Edinburgh Fringe

5th – 29th August, Underbelly, Cowgate, 6.55pm
Toby Hadoke – Now I Know My BBC
Brand new Edinburgh show!

I’ll also be taking part in various other gigs during the Festival; – I’m already booked in for loads of F***ing Funny For A Fiver slots, Jason Cook’s late night show, and as a guest on Hardeep Singh Kohli’s cookery/comedy chatshow. Just keep an eye out, you’ll find me.

Plus –
Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf returns to Edinburgh for one night only!
August 20th at the massive Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

For those not going to Edinburgh, remember to visit XS Malarkey every Tuseday:

10th August
XS Malarkey (MC Dan Nightingale, Paul Pirie headlining)

17th August
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC Dan Nightingale, Chris Cairns headlining)

24th August
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC tbc, Brendan Riley headlining)

Monday 30th August
Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf – Newcastle

Tuesday 31st August
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC, Daliso Chaponda headlining)

Friday 3rd Sept
Please note – the Cineology Convention has been cancelled.

Tuesday 7th Sept
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC, Andrew O’Neill headlining)

Friday 10th Sept – Saturday 11th Sept
Covent Garden (MC)

Sunday 12th Sept
Comedy Store, Manchester (New Stuff MC)

Tuesday 14th Sept
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC, Rob Deering headlining)

Saturday 18th Sept
Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf – Corsham

Tuesday 21st Sept
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC, Kent Valentine headlining, plus Ivor Dembina)

Thur 23rd – Sat 25th Sept
Frog and Bucket, Manchester (MC)

Sun 26th September
Comedy Store, Manchester (New Stuff, MC)

Tues 28th September
XS Malarkey, Manchester (MC, Super Special Birthday bash – 3 headliners and lots of fun!)

Friday 1st October
Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf – Cranleigh, Surrey

Oct – Dec gigs to follow.

Previews, Moths, And A Forthcoming Book!

A brief insight into how my mind works. I have done five previews on the trot for my new show, Now I Know My BBC. They’ve generally gone well, but there’s still a long way to go. Plenty of funnies, and the beginnings of a decent story, but it really needs hacking about and bashing into shape. Which is what I should be doing now. So I’m writing this instead. Part of my brain is kidding me that this will “get me in the mood” for writing and I will thus be industrious later and really lick the new hour into shape. The other part of my brain will convince me that in doing this, I have done some work, so can have a cup of tea instead of doing anything else for now. Quite why my personality forces me into putting everything off until the last minute is anyone’s guess. It’s hardly a great advert for evolution. Anyway, Hartlepool was the first of the previews – hot, sweaty, and an hour and a half, but a great audience who allowed me to veer from subject to subject. Constructive advice and support from my friends at Tachyon TV was much appreciated. Harlow the next day, a lovely, proper comedy club run by the estimable John Mann, which ran to time and helped shape the story. The beginning needed excessive pruning, so that I did for the next day’s gig at XS Malarkey. It ran to an hour and forty minutes! I’d expected a handful of faithful supporters at this gig, but no more (after all, they can see me every week). And over one hundred and fifty came – so thank you so much Malarkey massive. Even if the show was a bit wayward. Chris Brooker’s Keighley gig was packed to the rafters, and they were a terrific bunch who helped me and Matt Green deliver our previews and really test the material. Chris is obviously a well loved and expert host. Holmfirth was a sell out, and a beautiful town with a fantastic audience. A proper arts festival well run and well attended. Then Anthony Brown’s wonderful Chesterfield gig brought me down to Earth – a great, supportive and joyous audience, who listened well and smiled, but were a clear sign that I need to get more laugh-out-loud moments and to sell certain bits better.

As mentioned in my previous blog, Moths came to beautiful Pitlochry, where the audience eased me through effortlessly, and boasted a pleasingly eclectic age range. Kudos to the group of Canadian ladies who had never seen Doctor Who in their lives but went with it, and to the two lads (Darren and Kieron) whose lovely Mum had driven them for two hours to make the gig. I also returned to Bath with the show, to the fantastic Ustinov theatre, where I once again sold out (it’s my third visit to that venue – and last time they added a matinee too, and I’ve also done it at the Rondo up the road: so thank you Bath!). Witty sci-fi writer and loveable reprobate Steve O’Brien was my host – it’s always a joy to see him and his lovely fiancée Britt.

The audience are asked to leave feedback at the Ustinov Theatre. A scary policy!

It’s been pretty busy – I’m midway through two DVD documentaries, which I have alluded to before. I will of course, publish accounts of those once the titles are in the shops. I hope people enjoy them. I’ve also done a couple more commentaries, which are always a pleasure if not a little nerve racking.

A few more previews have been announced for Now I Know My BBC, as has some very exciting news. Doctor Who writer Robert Shearman (the brains behind the classic Christopher Eccleston episode Dalek) and I have written a three volume tome entitled Running Through Corridors. We spent last year watching Doctor Who in chronological order, two episodes a day, and sent each other mini essays of our thoughts. The intention being to rediscover our love for the show during Doctor Who’s gap year: and our principle remit being to accentuate the positive as much as possible. Published by Mad Nowegian Press, Volume One will cover the 1960s. It’s only available to order on Amazon US at the moment, but I’m sure that will change soon. It is published in December, although advance copies will be available at Chicago TARDIS this Thanksgiving.

XS Malarkey has had some terrific Edinburgh previews – Paul Sinha exuding his sharp intellect and deep humanity in a brilliantly wrought hour that is certain to garner plaudits. The following week we had a secret special guest, and hopefully the audience were delighted when the majestic John Bishop took to the stage from a brilliant set that displayed his usual apparently effortless hold over an audience. Not bad for £3! Our next one is on a Monday to avoid the date that was England’s potential semi-final at the World Cup (don’t laugh, that seemed like a distinct possibility three weeks ago). Rob Rouse is at that one, with the likes of Brendon Burns, Jason Cook, Seymour Mace, Gary Delaney and Alun Cochrane to follow. Flattering to get such extraordinary talents at our little club.

And I note that English tennis hope Andy Murray is now Scottish tennis also-ran Andy Murray. What a fickle world we live in.

Tickets available

OK, it’s official, tickets are available for my two fringe shows.

Now I Know My BBC is a brand new hour which will be performed between 5th-29th August, at 6.55pm at Belly Laugh at The Underbelly. It should contain the same mix of personal, satirical and heartfelt humour as my last show, and it’s been shaping up quite nicely in the previews (of which there are many more to come). It has a much broader scope than Moths, but I’m sure the Doctor will get a mention. Quatermass certainly does, and I can confidently claim I’m the only comic who’ll be doing that this year! Tickets are available from the venue or from the Edinburgh Fringe site.

Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf is definitely winding down, so we’re doing one final Edinburgh performance at the massive Edinburgh International Conference Centre. It should be a huge event, and a final opportunity for many of you to see it live. Tickets are available for the August 20th show from the Edinburgh Fringe site or from the venue.

I haven’t been blogging because, frankly, my writing time has been spent on the forthcoming show, but I have been keeping a diary of the various things I’ve been up to for the Doctor Who DVDs I’ve been working on this month. I will upload the memories from those experiences when the specific releases are announced, but there are some fun tales to tell and I’m really looking forward to them hitting the shops. I’ve been working with two wonderful programme makers, Ed Stradling and Steve Broster, on a documentary feature which is right up my street, and the work progresses well. We have one more shooting day in a week or so, and the boys have been good company as we’ve schlepped up and down the country interviewing people. I have done a commentary for another story (with producer John Kelly, who always gets a good line up) in the past week or so, and am doing another (for one of my favourite stories) with Steve in a week or so.

Also, exciting news about a book I have co-written with Doctor Who writer Rob Shearman will be announced shortly.

I promise to blog with more than pluggage soon, but frankly, I’m knackered.

So I’ll leave you with a fascinating fact – like Leo McKern and Elton John, Mervyn Pinfield, Doctor Who’s mysterious original Associate Producer, was actually called Reginald.

Moths went to Pitlochry last month - a long way, but beautiful.