News

  • 10 Nov

    The Zoo Story

    Have you heard the one about two Brits in Copenhagen pretending they’re in New York?

    Very excited to report that I have recently been asked to take the stage for a theatrical production of Edward Albee’s classic 1958 play The Zoo Story at Huset in the heart of Copenhagen. Already home to a thriving English-speaking theatre company House of International Theatre (HIT), I was thrilled to be asked by my fellow ICC performer Charlier Waller to form the remaining 50 per cent of the cast.

    If you don’t know about it (and to my shame I include myself in this), it’s a one-act, two-person play that has often been labelled Theatre of the Absurd, but I don’t feel it is. It deals with universal themes including failure to communicate, isolation, class, societal failure and male identity.

    While being quintessentially American at its heart, the ideas that Albee played with in his writing knows no country or nationality. This also explains why we chose to perform in our native British accents and not pretend to be American. As two ex pats living in a different country, we felt some affinity with the ideas of being out of time and place, strangers in a strange land, somewhat disconnected from the status quo. Again, all these themes run throughout every aspect of Albee’s writing.

    It’s only a three-night run and a short play but it has proved quite an intense experience, not least because both Charlie and I are on stage for the entire play. Even in a longer play it’s rare for an actor to have 100 per cent stage time so in accumulative terms, it’s quite an undertaking. I should also mention that this is the first time I’ve been on stage for scripted performance since I was at school. So there’s that.

    Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed treading the boards, I hope this won’t be my last. Time will tell…

     

     

    By admin News Performances
  • 20 Aug

    The Great British Sod Off

    Hello world,

    First post in a while but that may well change. For starters I’ve unchained the shackles of Comedy Central after several years and am back out there in the real world. Glad I dived right in; the water’s just fine.

    Secondly, I felt compelled to write because tonight marks the return of the adored Great British Bake Off. Now in its fourth series, that chunky, handsome man with the twinkly eyes (no, not me) and the woman who looks the evil pastor in Poltergeist 2 are back to reassure the nation that everything isn’t really that bad and we are in control; nothing calms the soul more than watching a group of people whose greatest struggle involves an inaccurately folded loaf of cholla or an overly-tart lemon drizzle cake.

    I have nothing against this sort of warm cardigan telly in principal, but what I do find rather sad is that this is a prime example of an increasingly depressing trend of major broadcasters of replacing quality, thought-provoking, original and, above all, entertaining programming with what is lazy, drawn-out, quick-win and ultimately empty daytime television.

    I should say, first off, that having worked in TV for a long time, I understand the squeeze programme makers currently endure. The digital revolution has diluted the water, the money is dwindling and the need to spread themselves across multi-platform outlets has seen reduced risk-taking by broadcasters in terms of the formats they commission. I understand all this; I used to see it every day.

    But. Shows like this gall me because historically they would be tucked away alongside Watercolour Challenge and My First Doily in the middle of the afternoon – gentle, passive shows that brought together the pensioner and the student alike, soothing them into a soporific but beatific stupor until they go out/go to bed at about 6pm. The Great British Bake Off should not be on 8pm. At the risk of sounding like a Daily Mail article, it’s a waste of the licence fee.

    Since they have made the jump to primetime, we are left with effectively 20 minutes of television cynically drawn out over an hour to fill the schedule. You just watch. Next time one of these shows is on keep an eye out for the insufferable levels of repetition in the voice over, talking heads, interviews and participants’ comments over 60 minutes. If I catch one more episode of Masterchef where we are reminded every six minutes that Gavin from Weybridge is out of his comfort zone with a fish dish I’ll build a van out of those desserts Greg Wallace loves so much and crash it through his kitchen.

    I’m not saying all primetime TV should be highbrow and elitist. We do have enough channels to spread the love and there’s more than enough room for comedy, drama and documentaries that are broad and mainstream; I welcome it. I just feel (rather sentimentally I admit) that major network broadcasters should be leading from the front as they used to. Also, I just miss the craft that goes into programme making. They say a show comes together in the edit suite but these daytime-turned-primetime shows really do feel like every single shred of footage has been cobbled together just to play for time and chase ratings at the expense of well-made, stimulating entertainment.

    I understand why these shows are popular. I get why people in their millions lap this stuff up. It’s gentle, it’s soothing, a balm after a hard day doing whatever it is people don’t enjoy doing on a daily basis. It’s aspirational. People doing what they love in England’s Green and Pleasant Land.

    That said, television is still (for now) one of the most powerful media in the world, and there’s no reason why prime time schedules shouldn’t be used optimally to benefit the greatest number of people. We need less frothy, forgettable fare that belongs on TV during the middle of the day, and more truly engrossing dramas, uplifting comedies and inspiring documentaries the BBC and Channel 4 used to pioneer so effectively. Lastly, I also believe people will watch whatever’s put in front of them, so there’s really no excuse NOT to make it well written, well structured, well acted (where relevant) and above all actively entertaining.

    Now if you excuse me, I’m off to check my Victoria Sponge hasn’t fallen over…

  • 01 Mar

    Bye-Bye Benny, no groping on the way out.

    That’s it. Pope Benedict is out of there. He’s gone. Split. Further proof the job-for-life mentality is outdated and redundant, even for those elected by God. Still, I don’t blame him. That gig’s a poison chalice.

    For starters there’s the ambiguous job description. He’s not just the Pope; he is also Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the state of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God and Primate of Italy. Primate? I know job titles tend to be pretty vague, but it must be demeaning to have your role compared to a chimp.

    But that’s only the start of it. The Pope is boss of all Roman Catholics. Think of the logistics. You can’t micromanage a headcount of one and a half billion. The cost of stationary and desk space alone doesn’t bear thinking about. And let’s not forget this is a high-profile, international set up so maintaining positive pr must be a nightmare. All you need to happen is a rogue bishop doing something he shouldn’t with a bonobo in the Congo and it’s all over the papers quicker than you can say ‘ridiculous cliché’.

    Then there’s the company car. Sitting inside a bulletproof glass case isn’t exactly going to put you in the best of moods on the way to work. Sure, it’ll keep you safe but it also serves as a daily reminder that someone may want to kill you. No, sounds like old Benny was wise to get out when he did. Still, if he’d hung on till the end he’d probably have got a decent retirement package, like a set of cufflinks or the holy grail, which he could flog online for a small fortune. Wonder if he’s allowed to keep the hat?

    In other news, a private investor has revealed he would like to send an older couple to Mars. He feels that his contribution to the space race is to add a little experience to proceedings. After all, youth is wasted on the young, right? Why should the kids have all the fun? Well if this chap gets his way we’ll soon be seeing a pair of astronauts of mature years blasted off on a once-in-a-lifetime mission to the red planet.

    Apparently the plan to choose an older couple is because their health and fertility would be less affected by the radiation they would be exposed to during such a long space mission. Makes sense. Their radiators are always turned on full blast even in the height of summer. On the downside it could prove more expensive having them pilot the shuttle. After all, have you ever tried to get the elderly insured on a car? Your premium goes through the roof.

    It doesn’t sound like a good idea. It’s a lot colder there than Earth so they’ll have to equip this adventurous pair of pensioners with extra tartan blankets. Presumably their shuttle will travel at about thirty miles an hour, even when there are no other space shuttles around, and with the indicator still flashing from when they turned left just after the moon.

    These are, of course, cynical generalisations. Still, it’s got to be factored in, as is the potential that these senior space cadets might get all the way to Mars, wander around for a bit, then complain it wasn’t worth the effort. After all, it’s so expensive nowadays, the shuttle was so loud and ultimately the whole trip was a bit of a disappointment because they don’t build planets like they used to.

    Finally, following those allegations made against a certain enormous, sweaty politician who shall remain nameless, there’s a lot of talk in the press about correct conduct in the workplace. What is appropriate office behaviour, what is not. A wink here, a grope there. Apparently there is a sliding scale of what is acceptable. For instance, it is permissible to touch a colleague’s arm to get their attention. It is less permissible to drop your trousers and rub yourself up against someone’s leg. Who knew?

    Seriously, there tends to be a rule of thumb in this situation. If in doubt, don’t. Now, I’m not being a prude here. You can’t move where I currently work for irritating, flirty banter. Not a day goes by without several members of the finance department stealing away into the stationary cupboard to re-enact the last days of Rome, but they are consenting adults so it’s fine.

    On the whole, if you need to be told that you shouldn’t behave in a certain way then you need to have a long, hard look at yourself. Seriously, does anyone really need to be told that it’s inappropriate to pat a co-worker on the bottom? Clearly they do.

    Here’s a thought. You do not need to be fondling anyone at work. At all. Really the only profession where it is acceptable to touch someone as much as you like is professional boxing – and even they have that rule about hugging for too long. No, the rules for society were laid down some time ago and it’s for the best we all just follow them, otherwise it’s a strict disciplinary, which should really involve the offending party being locked in that stationary cupboard, where they’ll get the most terrifying dose of their own medicine ever imaginable…

  • 07 Feb

    A Wizard in the Workplace

    Hello you,

    Right, first entry in a while; indeed first post of 2013 and it’s already got off to an excellent start.

    I’ll start off with a brief celebratory nod to the recent passing of the equal marriage bill. Now anyone can get married. Good. Another victory for emancipating progress and objective equality, another defeat for damaging prejudice and subjective paranoia.

    It really is a non-debate. If you love someone with all your heart, you should be allowed to express this love, publicly, formally and legally through the institution of marriage, whoever you are. It’s only fair, right?

    Ironic that people who bang on about how marriage is on the decline are usually the same folk who don’t want equal marriage. So they moan that fewer people want to join the club then turn away those who want in. They can’t have it both ways. Does this bill represent an erosion of traditional family values? Of course not. Historically marriage was not about the family anyway, it was about property. In fact, marriage has been constantly redefined over time so there’s no correct answer to what it actually means or why we do it.

    Bottom line, this decision represents the time we currently live in – one that aspires to compassion, freedom, respect and tolerance – all of which, by the way, lie at the heart of all religious traditions. Anyway, here’s hoping religious wedding ceremonies will now be forced by law to resemble scenes from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Might make them slightly less tedious.

    In other news, another collaboration with the amazing Guerrier Brothers is on the way. Here’s a BTS photo (courtesy of the fabulous Lisa Bowerman) of the shoot, in which I was fortunate to act opposite veteran actor David Warner. The film is still being edited, so watch this space for more news as and when it breaks…

     

     

     

  • 04 Nov

    EDIT: The Plotters finally embeddable

    Hello world,

    Right, on the eve of the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot it seem fitting I am finally able to embed my latest short film, The Plotters, onto my site.

    As you may or may not know we made the final thirteen films in the Virgin Media Shorts competition, and are eligible for the grand final, on Thursday November 8th. Hopefully the verisimilitude of the date for the final falling so near to Bonfire Night may work in our favour, but then I’ve always been a silly, sentimental sort. Anyway, enjoy.

  • 29 Jul

    Remember, Remember…

    Hello world.

    Finally got round to uploading this. Based on an idea conceived by myself and award-winning wrter comedian Hannah George, The Plotters is the latest comedy short I’ve made in collaboration with a fabulously talented bunch of writers, performers and crew members.

    I co-wrote the script with Simon Guerrier, and the end result was directed by his brother Tom. I had the priviledge of working with the Guerrier Brothers on Revealing Diary, and was thrilled to get a chance to collaborate with them once more. Full credits can be seen here.

    Anyway, we’ve entered it into a short film competition, so click below to watch and see what you think. We’re really proud of the finished result, filmed over one humid Saturday in olde London town on a VERY small budget but an awful lot of beards.

    The Plotters – Virgin Media Shorts.

  • 14 May

    New short film, nature and pigeons.

    Hello world.

    Not much to report, largely because I’ve been very busy. Working two full-time jobs into the time it takes to do one is not to be advised.

    Did notice that new nature programme on the telly. Planet Earth Live. It’s the most ambitious wildlife experience ever made apparently.  It’s presented by that tiny moron from the car show who nearly incinerated himself strapped to a rocket on wheels and that woman who wanders around fields so it must be important.

    And it’s live. A live nature show. Not sure they’ve thought this through. What are we going to get, half an hour in an empty field? A sleeping pig? A bewildered chaffinch? Animals don’t handle direction very well. Even if they use exciting ones like a lion, they might not be in the mood. What are they going to do then, send in some terrified assistant to poke it? They’re going to need a very long stick.

    Thing is, there’s never been a live nature show for a reason. Ever been to a zoo? It’s boring. Imagine that, but without the gift shop. That’s your live nature show right there. In fact, you want a live nature show? Open a window.

    Talking of nature, I read recently that pigeons have GPS brain cells. Whichever research team has been paid to investigate this area, this is the earth shattering conclusion they have reached. Pigeons are living, breathing, feathered sat navs. And there we were thinking they were just rats with wings, indifferent to vehicles. Turns out they could develop a symbiotic relationship.

    If we could harness this power, we could have one in every car.  Actually that might be a terrible idea. A bird trapped in a combined space? Can you imagine the humanity? Thousands of lives put at risk as cars spin off roads, lorries jack-knife into central reservations and vans collide into each other, twisting into macabre, mangled of sculptures of metal and fibreglass, just because the sat nav decided it wanted to get out.

    No, we must stop meddling in affairs that do not concern us. Leave the pigeons alone. Let them do what they do best. Spreading disease and upsetting statues.

    Lastly,  I was asked to take part in a short film by the supremely talented Guerrier brothers. We made it from scratch in two days.  To find out more click here, but here it is. Enjoy.

  • 02 Jan

    Hooray for Hollywood

    Hello world,

    2012 is here. This year will prove very interesting, not least if the Mayans are right. Still if they were that good at pinpointing the apocalypse, surely they would have foreseen their own demise…?

    Sadly astral charts and ancient predictions are less likely to bring about the downfall of modern civilization than the current economic meltdown which shows no sign of abating, but I know precious little about the ins and outs of it all so I shall say no more.

    What I will say, is that last year ended for me on a career high when a sitcom script I co created and co-wrote with dear friend James Devonshire is being sold to a major Hollywood studio. As several people have asked me to explain further on Facebook or Twitter I thought here would be a better place to do so.

    The idea was simple enough – a recession comedy about a man who has everything, loses everything and has to return to where he grew up and start again. Not particularly original I’ll admit but what me and James wanted to do is recreate that fast-paced, zingy dialogue that those Yanks have been doing so well for decades, but which is somewhat lacking from British comedies. Think Howard Hawks over Roy Clarke and you’re on the right lines.

    It seems the script had proved a bit too much a storng flavour for the British producers we’d so far shown it to, but on reflection it makes sense it would appeal more to the US market. Sure enough we gave it to a producer now working over in California (who also happens to be a gloriously wonderful, kind, thoughtful woman – a rare thing in this game) who read it, liked it and felt her boss would like it too.

    We’d never heard of her boss, but a quick google search revealed him to be the former President of a major US TV studio. This is when it all got very exciting. further probing revealed that during his tenure, he had a hand in developing and sustaining, among others, Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Friends, ER and The West Wing. This is when it all got VERY exciting. Talk about a proven track record.

    This man did like our work and talks began with a view to develop a US version of our script which, despite the aforementioned dialogue style, was very much a British beast, picking apart and subverting the traditional view of rural English village life. More The Wicker Man than The Vicar of Dibley but without the surreal grotesque overtones of the former that inspired the brilliant League of Gentlemen. In short, village life can be pretty grisly and that’s what we wanted to capture.

    Fortunately for us, America has hundreds of equally grisly rural backwaters and so our script struck a chord over the Pond and as we move into the new year, with any luck we’ll see a pilot being filmed. At the moment I am keeping everything crossed and touching an enormous amount of wood. I ask you please to do the same.

    Hopefully this blog entry won’t have jinxed development, but I always believe that if I had the power to negatively affect the outcome of a future event by merely vocalising my desire for everything to go well then this must make me some sort of demi-urge. Rest assured, I know from my tussle with a minor stomach bug over the festive period I am not a god. Merely a frail, overly-delicate mortal, flesh and blood and full of wind.

    So that’s it. Forgive the vagaries – I felt it best not to mention names (apart from James of course) and I’ll keep this site updates with more news as and when it breaks. If, on the other hand, the Mayans turn out to be right about 2012 then I suggest we all stock up on the ham in the tin and start building that bunker in the garden.

  • 21 Oct

    What offends you?

    There’s currently a lot of hubbub in the media about comedians offending people. BBC Four reminded us with a patchy drama about the outrage back in 79 surrounding the release of Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, while Ricky Gervais has caused a Twitter storm over use of the word ‘mong’.

    But does anyone ever take a moment to think about what it actually means to be offended? Really, it just means someone says or does something you don’t like.

    I hate to break it to you but that’s not going to go away, no matter how much you protest, scream and shout. And I guarantee something you hold dear and true will offend someone else and vice versa.

    It’s just how the world works. You can’t police this, because different people are offended by different things. If you want to be really offensive in the Middle East, throw a shoe. If you want to be really shocking in Japan, blow your nose in public.

    In the past we Brits were offended by a woman showing her ankle. Ridiculous. Bottom line, being offended is the price we pay for freedom of speech.

    People can be cruel, vicious and downright nasty, but that same licence to say what you want has allowed some of the greatest acts of creativity, innovation and discovery.

    Besides, if someone offends you, you have the right to be offensive back. If someone insults your god, insult their wife. Someone pokes fun at your ethnicity, give them a bunch of fives. Someone sexually harasses you, express your gratitude. And if you find that offensive, that’s the point.

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    In other news, there’s a new coffee machine in the kitchen where I work. It really is a marvel of the modern world. It has three settings, none of which result in any coffee.

    Setting one offers a feeble dribble of dark brown mud into the cup, followed by an equally pathetic splash of cold water. Setting two is very similar to setting one, except without the water. But the real triumph is setting three. Whoever factored this one in should be awarded the Nobel Prize.

    It begins with the machine vibrating and thrashing like a blackbird trapped in a shoebox. This is followed by a sound akin to pig being aggressively guided through a rusty mincer.

    Then, once this whole production has died down, comes the grand finale. Molten coffee cascades all over the table while a pyroclastic cloud of scalding steam is jettisoned into the unsuspecting face of anyone within a ten-foot radius.

    Three members of the accounts department perished at the mechanised hands of this infernal contraption in one week and while this may not be a bad thing in itself, morale is beginning to wane.

  • 15 Aug

    The aliens are coming, bring a packed lunch!

    The Ministry of Defence has finally released its archive of files into reported UFO sightings. For years we can see the work of a clandestine Government department many believe, according to the papers, act as “a defender of the British Isles against the alien menace”.

    Which alien menace would this be then? Blurry photos of small, cloud-shaped objects drifting aimlessly over the M1, much like a cloud would do? Because if we’re honest (and I do try to be wherever appropriate) that’s all these sightings ever are.

    Think about it. Would extraterrestrial beings of higher intelligence who have mastered intergalactic travel really fly light years across the universe just to fleetingly hover over a beech tree in Norfolk?

    And if so, would they really impart news of their impending attack on planet Earth to some ex-hippy with a mind so riddled with acid flashbacks and loneliness their testimony is as trustworthy as a hoodie loitering outside a burning Foot Locker.

    And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to state, for the record, I’d welcome an alien invasion right now. There are some parts of the UK that already look as though they’ve been destroyed by invading martian marauders so their actual presence can only improve things.

    Moreover, if an alien beastie did approach me demanding “take me to your leader”, I’d try and persuade it to meet someone with a smidgen more credibility, like H from Steps .

    So if anything is unearthed from these files (which it won’t be) I say let’s make the alien menace feel welcome. Who knows, maybe if we’re lucky they’ll take some of us back with them.

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