The word is out: “Funnier than you could possibly imagine” – Spin Magazine. “Immediately accessible…it was great” Conan O-Brien. “You had better start investing in a light saber” – The New York Times.
We jammed ourselves, once more, into the BMW, and headed down that misty road in search of another show. And we could be any happier if we tried.
On tour, as John C said from the driver’s seat: “every day is just: another day, another kettle.”
I pondered that thought, looked at down at my orange
and remembered the great B&B, in Carlisle.
Not all kettles are born equal.
Then again, kettles aren’t born.
But if they were, I wonder which came first: the kettle or the egg?
At home (in Canada), today is Labour Day: a holiday in which people desperately try to cram in one more summer experience before resigning themselves the inevitability of autumn. It‘s one of the sadder holidays of the year- second only to Acceptance Of Mortality Day.
“Why is it that one day the coffee tastes better than the day previous?”
“Why didn’t I have this headache yesterday?”
Are we being followed?
Touring is lost time- the kind of time you spend on an airplane or commuting. Some people think it’s glamourous, but there are way more glam jobs.
I’ve had significant moments in pubs,
at the theatre,
making an unexpected friend of a cat or dog
But, like blogging: it’s casually significant.
Whenever anything different happens out here it’s like a foreign holiday: “What’s all this about? Free fried squid in the piazza?! Hooray for Free Fried Squid in the Piazza Day!”
– all of us- crossing paths, passing each other, giving way, mid-adventure, starting out, or heading home.
A whole bunch of hotel rooms. Trees, sheep, cows, and fences.
Lists of other things- not many variations.
It gives the impression that there’s only one road leading to the one and only city in the world.
Luckily for me, all roads eventually lead home- even though I live on an island (which you can’t drive to, per se).
Luckily for us, you are all so different.
Well, long time no Blog. I’m sure the world has continued to rotate in spite of my laziness.
I’m happy to report that since my last post, I’ve had at a thousand offers for Viagra and other potency/male enhancing meds. All of which I’ve ingested, resulting in a slight growth on the side of my head and shoulders- I now look like this:
No worries however, I’m out on tour in the UK again, in many ways I blend in. People think I’m giving a dog a ride on my shoulders.
This tour takes us to 27 cities in just over a month. We’re traveling by car: a BMW sports wagon…or something. Nice car. Gets dirty very quickly.
Our first show was Sheffield, as in the Full Monty, and in honor of that film I did the entire show naked.
We’re lucky to have a fast car.
The posse is smaller this time around: as always there’s Christine Fisichella as Tour/Stage/Lighting Goddess,
John Cooper (my Comic Rain Man) and me (Mr. Dressup).
We’re at Bradford (near Leeds) tonight.
I’ve played here at the cavernous St. George’s Hall before.
The last time I was here in Bradford, it rained incessantly and the sounds of gunshots rang out every five minutes. The shots were actually a part of a trend where guys would loosen the mufflers on their cars so that they’d intentionally backfire.
As stupid as it may seem, in my youth, I’d have enjoyed watching people jump, duck, and defecate as I’d drive past.
Maybe we’ll loosen the muffler on the Beemer and see what happens.
So, the show goes ever on and on, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Some people are happier than me:
And even if I should ever find myself getting down there’s always this:
Here’s hoping the TV sucks.
See you soon:)
Had some interesting times in the latter part of last week.
I had left you on my way to Basingstoke. Some people mistakenly pronounce the name as: Bah-sin-stow-kee.
I’m just going to go out on a limb and say it: what?
We performed at the Haymarket Theatre, which is a fantastic space to work in, and the theatre staff are great.
One of the technician dudes was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which made me think of beer. If you can’t get drunk in Wisconsin you aren’t trying hard enough. Beer is cheaper than bottled water in Wisconsin. And it’s so good.
You could almost call Wisconsin: the Shire State.
But nobody would know what you were talking about.
So don’t bother.
Basingstoke is a pretty town, and it yielded up a thrilling (for me) sunset:
From there it was on to Sudbury
The home of cute little theatres
and humongous swans
It was a bright, bright day, in Sudbury, which made it seem all the more lovely. Even though if it had been raining I’d have still felt the same. Just look at it:
We stayed that night at Pub called the Bay Horse Inn, which had rooms for rent.
Now, my show was fun, but the real evening’s entertainment came from a wicked blues-esque band called the Smoking Hogs.
The audience in the pub went wild:
They were the best entertainment to be found in Sudbury, that Saturday evening.
Early the next day we embarked on a mammoth trip that involved six trains, two Tube subway lines, and bus to get to Winchester. “Good things come to those who wait”, or in this case: change train platforms a trillion times.
It’s was my second time back to the Winchester and the perfectly proportioned Theatre Royal.
Our B&B was very posh, covered with art and furniture fit for the home of an aristocrat. I was almost afraid to breathe too hard when I entered the place, but the Hostess (who was as charming a person as I ever met) made me feel completely at ease. I asked her if I could take a wee picture of one of the adorable drawings on my bedroom walls. (I sound like a twerp, I know) Look at her:
Much to my joy and happiness we were booked to stay in Winchester for a day off.
Instead of sitting on our arses- as we usually do- Christine and I willingly got onto a train (on our day off) and made our way to Salisbury. From the Salisbury train station we boarded a bus- all of this was made much easier as we had no luggage to carry- and went to go check out a stack of rocks.
There are moments of clarity in life when you realize that something neat is going to happen: like the first time I went up the Empire State Building, or when I performed at a giant Star Wars convention. You prepare for it, not knowing exactly how you’ll react to it- this could be the first of many times to come or perhaps this will be it.
I’d been told you can’t get close to the stones, but I thought it wasn’t bad.
If I was a bird around there I could nest in Stonehenge:
There were a bunch of sheep too (aside from the tourists):
Someone should seriously consider opening a little pub up there. Maybe an underground pub, so that the view isn’t compromised. Besides, alcohol and tourists go together sooo well.
Anyway, after seeing that ancient wonder of the world, I felt a overwhelming sense of connection to everyone:
I almost didn’t want to get back onto the bus. Most people didn’t:
On my way back to Winchester from Salisbury, with visions of Stonehenge still swimming in my head, I noticed that a rescue helicopter passing overhead looked a lot like a little water bug:
And as I stepped off the train back in Winchester, I found myself searching for the right words to express what I felt. What could I say that would make people understand?
Suddenly, I looked over and realized that a sign in Welsh must be experiencing a similar kind of angst, but directed towards me:
I have no idea exactly what it was trying to tell me. I know it was important. It might have been something that could have changed my life- even saved it someday.
What can I say?
Go see Stonehenge.
So are helicopters.
It started out in Barrow (see above), a town on England’s north west coast. It’s a lovely place to be a duck, swan, or goose.
What a beautiful sunny day Tuesday was:
Of course a sunny day spent on train platforms is like a Belgium chocolate coated beer-cap.
I shouldn’t complain about train platforms- nobody’s forced me to live out the rest of my days on one. I’d rather think of it like this: every train platform is taking me that much closer to home.
I like to take a moment to say that Virgin Trains (1st Class) rock! You get served coffee and apples from a person who actually begrudges you a smile. More of a face stretch, really, but there’s still the effort made.
I got to sit, sipping my coffee, and stare enviously at the jets flying overhead.
The next night was in Preston.
Preston… has nice hardwood floors.
The bathroom at my B&B had pink shag carpet- you don’t see that very often- I won’t mention the actual name of the B&B, only that it was in Preston.
The hallways at the theatre appeared to made of chrome.
I don’t want to sound unkind towards the not-so-lovely places that I travel to. If you can’t say something nice etc..
That being said: Preston isn’t the prettiest of all places.
Now I was born in an industrial (kind of shabby) town and since then I’ve lived in my share of hideous places.
Does that make me worthless? An ugly home does not an ugly person make. Even a Shangri-la can be populated with ghouls.
Hell, even my family has moved away from a picture postcard town (a place very close to my heart) to an industrial town (a place that I associate with the smell of sulphur). Despite its esthetic inferiority, the place has started to grow on me with every new memory we make there as a family. The surroundings almost don’t matter.
I suppose that means that even life on a train platform could be bearable if the right people were there. And if it was sunny.
Preston has good people, I know because I met some of them while I was there. I hope that I get to go back.
Solihull was the next night. It’s a great town and we had an awesome Victorian era B&B.
Plus, I got to meet up with my old partners (Richard and Anne) in crime from my One Man Star Wars UK tours:
It was my second time back to Solihull. I’d forgotten that the theatre sort of boarders a giant mall. There are tons of malls throughout the UK, but this one is special. It could be because one store had these (and only these) to sell:
I was very pleased to realize the morning I woke up in Solihull, that my glass had become half full. There were more days behind (at least as far as this tour is concerned) than lay ahead.
The home stretch had begun.
Blogging is like “Life” as described by Monty Python: a game, where we make up the rules, while we’re searching for something to say.
The only guarantee of blogging is Spam- makes me think of Spamalot. I never actually saw the musical but loved the Holy Grail movie.
This country has so many varieties, its landscapes its people. I saw the power station above maybe twenty minutes before the Shire. It’s amazing: the diversity that exists from one town to the next, even if it’s only twenty miles away.
Travelling across this place, as I have, by train, it’s as though I’m seeing it from a great height. I feel close to it, but can’t quite reach out and touch it.
I sometimes feel as though it’s all a dream. Then I find myself waking as with every train station a little bit of the world gets on board.
We live in a bizarre symbiosis with each other. There are the annoyers and the annoyees (not a real word, but you know what I mean).
For example: there was this person who sat on our “quiet coach” (a type of train car which hopefully requires no further explanation) and loudly recited a monologue into a cell phone, regaling someone with every minute detail of life. (I sort of sound like the blog-pot calling the cell-kettle black, don’t I?) Anyway, I say “monologue” because it seems altogether impossible that anyone be willing to participate in such a dull “dialogue”. (To me, even if the person on the other end had spent their entire life trapped in an elevator, I’d imagine them hanging up.)
Tales of video games, quiche and croutons, mortgages, and the best choice of bottled water, after two hours became kind of an annoying thrill.
It’s unfortunate that this person looked and dressed in such a fashion as to resemble a muppet.
This person was like a television in a bar. I was hypnotized and utterly powerless to ignore it.
So this last week has been very much the hors d’ouvre plate of locales. I never imagined the subtle differences between Epsom, Barnstaple, Lichfield, Buxton, Newcastle, and Birkenhead. In some ways they may as well be from separate countries.
There’s been mountains and snow,
Shires minus the Hobbits, cities in name rather than in scale,
accents, accents, accents, and some theatres so grand as to humble me to my very core.
I’m never sure what’ll come next.
The memories are fleeting- I hope that there’ll be some kind of carry over of this experience to the rest of my life. Watching Canada win Olympic Hockey gold made the huge impression on me. That makes sense, though- touring is my job- the hockey is something that happens once every thirty years. Or if we believe Roland Emerich’s movie 2012, it’ll never happen again.
The Mayans knew it.
Touring it seems serves to remind me of the life I’ve left behind. Real life is so precious to me.
I remember an Oscar speech made by a woman who’d suffered greatly during WWII. She said that people today don’t appreciate the luxury of a boring evening spent at home. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that was the gist of it. For my own part, I feel the truth of it, even though her life was terribly hard in comparison to mine.
I implore you, if you have the opportunity to savour an extra embrace with your loved one: do it. Take the time to smile at each other and make a joke. Phone a friend before the prospect of dodgy cell phone service plagues your day to day. Go visit your parents or grandparents if they live nearby. If you have the luxury of it, relish it. Ketchup. (get it? dumb)
What matters to me most is what’s left behind. If I could fly it all here, believe me, I would.
If anything, that sentimental feeling has made me empathize a bit more with this world I cannot touch. I am travelling through the lives’ of others. Even if I never meet any of them I can assume that this is their home and what matters most.
It’s like passing through the fields of sheep and pheasants, on the the way to Barnstaple, I remember how “quaint” it all seemed. Even the warring pheasants, battling it out over dominion of a small section of a field. How could it matter? What could possibly be the difference?
The lives’ of sheep and pheasants cannot be dismissed, they must be lived to be understood. I pass by in the train, yet for all the windows in the car, I see only an impression of it. I’ve spent so may years “just passing through” places that I’ve lost my ability to see any of it.
It makes me think of the muppet on the cell phone and the person with the lovely red socks. My meagre observations of them are as nothing. I’ve not revealed the underpainting, the textures, or their complexities layered beneath the surface. They’ve shared a part of themselves with we strangers. It makes me question why I’m bothered by it?
Is it because I don’t care to hear it? Or do I wish I was as free?
Part of my longing for home is that I know there are people in my life who care enough to listen about what I ate for dinner. It’s a comfort. (I promise never to tell you unless you ask, because it’s really boring.)
I’ve failed to appreciate that for maybe thousands of generations of pheasants, a mere passing field might represent their entire world. What appears to me as a squabble between birds may in fact be the passage of power. Unless I live in those fields (or wear another person’s socks), all I have is just my lazy observations.
I have begun to understand that touring is a gift that can’t take come home with you. It’s something like a long rite of passage, that after a while, it changes the way you view the world. It ‘s been a privilege that I haven’t necessarily earned, and for that reason, I will try to be worthy of the honour.
Last night in Newcastle, the show at the incredible Theatre Royal (one my favourite theatres in the world), it was rejuvenating.
I felt my blood happily race through my bruised body with slightly greater gusto. It helped that there were over 600 people in attendance and that they really got it. It’s the variable that can never be controlled during a live show: the response. Regardless of it, you have to keep going. Some days I wonder if the morgue has been taken out on a field-trip to see my show.
In Newcastle though, if was as if the embodiment of joy and youth found living expression in the form of my audience. I thank them for being so.
I spent today off in Chester, which has a quiet bustling beauty to it.
I had coffee in a Medieval crypt this afternoon,
this is just a local coffee shop. No big deal.
I was lucky enough to see some friends this week, and here they are in no particular order.
I also was lucky enough to have a night out in Barnstaple with Henry (my comic support) and Christine (my tour manager).
Lastly, I saw two funny signs that I wanted to share:
And, in Chester:
I’m an eight year old.
Thank you Pheasants.
I woke up very early in Reading, because it struck me that I was staying at the Reading Rainbow Hotel.
Reading Rainbow is an American children’s show on PBS, it’s about- funny enough- reading. Reading, the town, is actually pronounced like the past tense of “read”- I just found it funny at 4am.
Then I remembered that Reading Rainbow had recently been cancelled.
Then I found myself feeling bad for show’s host: Levar Burton. He was in Roots. He also played Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Then I started to think about the Geordie accent from Newcastle.
It was over after that- I couldn’t get back to sleep.
at a decent hour. The day was pretty nice too.
The train trip was as enthralling as ever. I looked out the window
at the exciting scenery
and recorded my every single thought about it.
On the way to Norwich, I couldn’t help taking a photo of this town’s station sign:
Oh, I should mention how great the show had been the night previously in Reading. I’d performed once before at the gorgeous Reading Concert Hall:
Okay, back to the train journey.
We arrived in Norwich and quickly became reacquainted with how beautiful the city is. It’s the kind of place where you could spend the entire time just taking photos. It’s grandiose one moment and quaint or homey looking the next.
Luckily for me, Norwich would serve as my “home” for the next four days.
Off we went to the theatre.
The Norwich Playhouse is situated right on the river:
The view from my dressing room made me nervous that the swans could to watch me changing.
We performed on the Friday and Saturday. The shows were fantastic. (Aside from a microphone malfunction. Argh!)
Norwich is the place to be as far as I’m concerned. Any place where strangers invite you to sit at their table (after they’ve seen the show) in the pub, is worthy of praise.
People in Norwich spontaneously break into to song along with fully choreographed dance numbers.
The staff at the Playhouse were awesome too. They’ve gave us some red wine after the show and let us sit up in the control booth with them.
At some theatres the staff line up like sprinters on the starting line and come the end of the show, they’re breaking world records to get out of there.
I’d like to thank the Norwich Playhouse staff for being so wicked.
I don’t have photos of everyone, but they know who they are. Thank you, again.
It became frighteningly clear that I’m not the only one who REALLY loves the Norwich Playhouse:
There were two schedules days off in Norwich. I’m a bit sheepish to admit that in order to clean up some issues I’ve been having with the show, I spent the first day off watching the entire LOTR extended trilogy.
It shouldn’t be a huge surprise considering what I do for a living.
Did I mention that weather was incredibly awful?
The films are just as good as I remember.
Yes, I’m a nerd.
This morning (February 22nd) I began with a radio interview at none other than:
It was a remote interview with BBC Radio Devon, which meant that I worked out of a studio the size of a broom closet.
It’s snowing again today. Everyone is trying to pretend that Winter is over. Some more than others:
I popped around Norwich’s extensive shopping district afterwards. There’s an outdoor covered market.
I found a cheese shop in the market which made me want to do that Monty Python sketch (What was it called? The Dead Parrot? I can’t remember.). Unfortunately, the cheese merchant had every kind of fromage a person could desire.
I think I’ll spend the rest of my day-off at either at the Cathedral, the Castle, or the Colman’s Mustard Museum.
I will miss Norwich when we go.
Onwards and upwards.
Tomorrow we’re off for Epsom.
Sometimes on the road you’re lucky enough to find that kind of B&B or Hotel where they just get everything right. You want to become a spokesperson for their place. Obviously the place I’ve stayed at for the last couple of nights has more than filled the bill. The breakfast was awesome- tons of choices. The bed: the kind you never want to get out of. The proprietors: Hatsue and Michael, are wonderful. Plus their dachshund:
It’s the Hatsue Guest House, in Camberley. If you’re ever in Surrey, UK, and need accommodations, the B&B is lovely and reasonable.
Hatsue, is a very personable woman, she really goes beyond the call of duty to make you feel welcome. She even went so far as to drive us to an alternative rail station so that our trip would take almost two hours less.
Camberley is a pretty little town I discovered. The streets are beautifully signed and named:
The Camberley Theatre was cool:
It’s always a pleasure to have your name in lights too:
The sign must have the power to convince. I had a whole whack of folks who came to the show who’d never seen or read Lord of the Rings. Like these two young guys:
In fact, the only person in the photo who’s seen or read the Lord of the Rings is me. Oh, the man in specs saw the LOTR Musical, in London.
The boys wanted a signed poster too. It was a pleasure to be in Camberley.
Tonight, I’m in Reading at the Concert Hall, starting at 8pm. Henry Paker is our comic support man.
I have an Executive Room at the Rainbow Hotel- it’s nice too- but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I miss the Hatsue Guest House.
Not as much as I miss my wife, mind you, because nothing compares to her.
It was supposed to a day off. A jaunty train journey, a few photos, ending at the B&B, in Camberley.
Maybe there’ll be time for a nice stroll around when I get there. I thought, nestled snuggly in ignorance.
Ha, ha, hahhhhhaaaaaaa! cackled the Rain Clouds as they high-fived the Train System. This fool will suffer! And his tour manager too! Ha, ha, h- etc…
Right- five trains and a subway ride later.
The day started off beautifully from
Look at the sky!
and from there hop the Tube
On the Tube, I noticed someone had left their gloves on the seat:
(There must be something wrong with me. I see lost things, and I know they have no feelings, but I feel sorry for them.)
The subway was just gross enough for me not to rescue them, love them, squeeze them, name them, and make them mine.
Instead I took a photo and worried about what was going to happen to them.
Trying to move on, I walked out into the cold and rain- because it’s still February and we’re in England. (At least the gloves will be warm on the train car. I reassure myself.) Suddenly, the fact that we’re actually back in London becomes very apparent:
(The gloves are going to be fine.) I smile to myself and look across the train tracks as our train approaches:
It was as if someone had been disintegrated or the invisible Man had a personal entrance for the train- meaning he’d be standing in the rain naked.
This was getting absurd. How did they even..?
No time- I was off for
and away we went.
The journey to Teddington was brief-ish. The walk from the station to my photo session (at an Arts Centre) was through a midday torrential downpour. The Arts Centre however was warm and gorgeous, a converted church and probably older than any building in North America.
Our photographer, Magnus, was waiting along with my publicist friend, Valerie. She’d brought me a sword from the National Theatre to use in the photos.
After two hours of
we’re off again from Teddington to
and then onwards to
The journey ended in Camberley, where it was too dark to get a photo of the sign.
After the tedious day off journey I was happy to discover our wonderful B&B, complete with a wiener dog who has a Japanese name.
When I came down for coffee in the morning the breakfast room was glowing.
By the time I got back to my room (no train journey today-yay!) I had received some sample photos from yesterday’s session:
I think the day spent battling rain and trains was worth it.
I hope the gloves were found. I hope the invisible man made his train.
Between the lost toupee and soother I saw on the way to Worthing, along with yesterday’s shoes and gloves, I’m getting close to a new outfit and hairdo. What a makeover I could have had.
Tonight we’re at the Camberley Theatre, not surprisingly in Camberley, Surrey. 7:30pm showtime.