Comedy Dinner Shows: Part 2
At the end of Part 1 of this series, I had just got the news that I had been cast as Boycie and Trigger in Comedy Dinner Shows’ Only Fools show. And even bigger into the bargain, I was also going to be doing the test show of a coach tour edition. Quite the appetising offer!
With script in hand, I set about to a rehearsal day with two other actors who had done the shows before, so at least I wasn’t in at the deep end. The rehearsals went well, with only the improvised sections that I was worried about. Of course, these are a tad difficult to prepare for. While I was attending regular improvisation workshops, I wasn’t that experienced in performing the form at this time.
Fortunately my knowledge of the characters helped immeasurably. As I strutted down the stairs into our first venue for the show opening, we encountered a group who were dressed as characters from the show. I saw one particular lady dressed as a policewoman in homage to the famous Raquel scene and immediately blurted out “It’s Raquel — the strip-o-gram!” This resulted in a huge laugh and huge relief, both for me and I daresay this collective of the audience. An audience for this type of show are clearly going to be fans of the television programme we are paying tribute to, so the quality of the emulation has to be top notch. With me immediately quoting a famous line, the group were put at ease as they knew we knew our stuff. It also helped me relaxed into the improvisation side of things.
This first venue gave me a great idea as to what sort of performances I could expect from this job. As the shows will primarily take place in a restaurant, not only will space to roam be an issue, but the shape of the room might be too. In this case, the entire room was in the shape of a “L”. One longish corridor, with a fuller area that bared to the right at the end, with the one area where everyone could see everything being that corner angle. Over the years, I’ve had to adapt to all sorts of performance shapes and sizes. Even to the point where we’ve had to perform scenes multiple times to different parts of the restaurant who couldn’t see everything at the same time.
All told, the first show went well. Next up was the coach show. We had another day of rehearsals for this new concept, playing off the infamous Jolly Boys Outing episode. Not only rehearsing the scenes that would take place at certain parts of the journey, but to record dialogue for other characters that would be calling in. On the day itself, colleagues Darren (Rodney) and Lawrence (Del), producer Steve, a hired videographer whose name escapes me and myself met at Stock in Essex to meet a group of family and friends embarking on a free test show aboard an incredibly luxurious coach. We’re talking Premier League team travel coach here. Our journey destination was Brighton. Before you get too jealous, this was on a decidedly off-summer-season day in late September.
After a photo session with a replica Trotter’s Independent Traders emblazoned three-wheeled van, I as Boycie was in charge of serving the passengers a bacon sandwich for their breakfast, before Del & Rodney arrived in said van. Being pushed by Steve and the van owner (no, we weren’t allowed to drive it).
Off we went to Brighton. The timings for the scenes on the way down went remarkably well, as traffic was on our side. Just before arriving at the pier coach park, my character made his excuses to head back to London as a way of explaining why Boycie wouldn’t be heading back with everyone. Letting the passengers take in as much of Brighton as they could for the next few hours, we set about filming promotional material for the website. A trip through the famous pier was quickly thwarted by security, who eventually lets us in as long we didn’t film anything on the videographer’s camera. Which rendered the idea rather pointless, but there we are.
After filming, we had lunch and drinks at a few locations, with myself needing to find somewhere with a room large enough to get changed in. Finally an up-marker coffee house had a bathroom that sufficed. I’m sure many people were surprised when I went in suited and booted and came out in jeans, jumper and a large overcoat. The worst superhero costume change ever.
I was to do the return journey as Trigger. The explanation would be seen as the audience gathered back at the coach, where Del’s speech was interrupted by knocking from the luggage cabin. I stepped out as Trigger to a bemused reaction with the reasoning being that I’d been in there since the early morning as it was open and I needed a nap. I may be misremembering that as the reason, but it was a reason nonetheless.
It was time for the return journey, which included a halfway house stop at a Kent pub, an opportunity for Lawrence to bring Uncle Albert into the story after a coach scene with a pre-recorded voice track. It was at this point when problems began. Being that it was becoming rush hour, and we had done this test show on a weekday, traffic was starting to escalate. The driver brilliantly found a route that got us to the halfway house in decent time, but the delays were getting worse for when we needed to get back on the road.
Having run out of scenes to do, as our last had to be done as we were literally on the last bit of the journey, we had no choice but to switch on the coach television and fire up a comedy DVD……of Fawlty Towers. Well, it wasn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, but maybe we should’ve kept in the theme of the show.
Eventually arriving back about 90 minutes later than planned, the plan seemed to be to take stock of the day and see how it went from there. Two and a half years later and we’re still to put on a second one. I can’t speak for the company as to why we haven’t embarked on another go of this (and even if I knew, I wouldn’t say), but it’s a shame as the idea definitely had potential. A lot of things like this of course have a lot going against them: traffic, accidents, insurance, medical emergencies, just to name a few. Hopefully though we will engage in another round of the Jolly Boys Outing in the future. After all, he who dares wins. Right?
In part 3 of this series……Fawlty Towers…