Vic Reeves Kisses My Face 5th January 2012
It would be fair to say, I am super excited at the impending broadcast of Vic Reeves's 'Ministry of Curious Stuff', starting next week (Mondays @ 17.45) on CBBC. It's a sort of investigative sketch show, where your questions are answered, in a round-about way, by Vic Reeves (as himself) and Dan Skinner - as the brilliantly stupid Captain Lengthwidth - with their eclectic team of faithful, funny, childlike (they are children) helpers... also featuring the delightful Nancy Sorrell (in various ridiculous guises). It's all set in a magical world where anything and anyone can come out of any number of doors and draws... And that is where I come in... Literally.
They say 'never meet your heroes' ...although that saying should come with the caveat, 'unless one of your heroes happens to be Vic Reeves'. He is a totally lovely bloke, constantly churning out madness, ideas, jokes, songs, more madness and beautiful drawings (the nuclear fire pony – a particular favourite). With seemingly limitless energy (actually, he might be an ingenious robot – prime directive: jollification) he really was a joy to work with... In fact it didn't feel much like work at all.
The writing sessions, were spent sat around tables in various in coffee shops and the offices of Vic's agent (mostly with Vic, Steve Burge - writer and Ruth Mills - Producer) chatting and laughing about designing binoculars for crows, eating poo and marrying your house, that sort of thing.
When the time for the studios came around, we entered a breathtakingly cool set, largely dreamed up by our brilliant, show devising, multi award winning, immaculately coiffeured series producer, Mr Rob Hyde. Beautifully imagined, made, lit and shot, it looked pretty splendid, and we were all hyped to get our joke on (I am sooo street).
I hung up my writing hat and put on my acting hat (I'm not talking about real hats. Real hats were involved, but more on that later... maybe). The characters came thick and fast, with more accents, beards, wigs, hats (told you) marvellous makeup, wonderful costumes and ingenious props than I could have imagined. It was a crazy schedule, thirteen shows – minus pre-shot animations (Vic's drawings, brought to life by the amazing Wonky Films) in two working weeks, but, for me, it flew by, largely thanks to my co-sketch-performers, the wonderful Gemma Arrowsmith and the insatiable Tom Golding... We had a lot of fun rehearsing, deciding the most ridiculous voice we would use for each character, and then changing it, often with moments to go, and generally acting like loud, demanding thespians. I say demanding... We never actually had to demand anything as the production team were like having several incredibly dedicated, yet youthful, foster parents, who had thought of everything... Honestly, they made Pippa off of Home Away look like Miss Hannigan off of Annie. Gawd bless 'em.
It was about halfway (I'm guessing) through filming, that I think I reached the high point in my life to date... (wedding excluded, naturally) I was dressed as arguably the most famous bearded lady in history (not a very contested title, I admit) Annie Jones (see picture)... all in the best possible taste... whilst Vic sang one of his many wonderful songs, that culminated in kissing me on the cheek. At which point he realises, I am not actually Annie Jones, and he has been duped (it'll make more sense when you watch it... possibly) The heels had been murder, the beard itchy, the dress... well that was actually pretty comfortable... and lets not get started on the suspenders (there weren't really suspenders), but it was all worth it. I left the set that day on a bit of a high, and it wasn't just the beard glue. I had been in a sketch with Vic Reeves, whilst dressed as woman with a beard, in a comedy musical number that nearly made me wet my frilly imaginary draws (in my head, they were egg shell blue, with a yellow, hand-stitched floral decoration). And that was just one of many magnificently mad moments, including a cyclops (also in a dress) a talking baby (in a romper suit) a space ape (in a space suit)... And so on. Happy days.
It all seems like months ago now (it was months ago now), but it's soon to come flooding back - in thirteen, weekly dispersed, televised, half hour segments, at least. I hope people enjoy watching it, half as much as I enjoyed filming it, because if they do, they will find it immensely, well... enjoyable.
Ministry of Curious Stuff, CBBC, Mondays, 17.45 co-written and featuring George
A Prickly Issue 5th November 2011
Nurses. Soldiers. Firemen. These people all have pretty tough jobs - vital, grueling work that is, all to often, under-resourced and under-paid. They risk their health, their safety, even their lives for their career... But let us never forget, none of them have to do it with a fake beard on.
Fake beards are just one of the many reasons why ‘messing around on the telly’ is now widely regarded as the most intensely demanding vocation in the world. The beards themselves are itchy, the glue used to affix them leaves a sticky residue and, once applied, they can hamper mouth movement by up to 15%. Imagine what it’s like to not quite be able to open your mouth to its fullest extent for a little over two hours at a time. Sobering thought isn’t it?
And the trials don’t end there. These beards come in four, sometimes five parts, and can take up to 45 minutes to apply. Yes, a full three-quarters of an hour sat in a chair, often at a not entirely comfortable height, whilst the hair-knotted ‘lace’ is systematically stuck to the actual skin of the actual face. Yes - actual face skin.
And that’s without mentioning the secondary implications of fake beard use, such as partially obscured lip sync, the inability to bite sandwiches and, most humiliating of all, the use of drinking straws. I myself have found that members of the film crew will often smirk a bit at the sight of a grown man drinking tea through straws. Yes, that most crippling of all bully-boy tactics - the slight smirk.
So next time you’re working a 16 hour shift down a coal mine, delivering a baby or pulling an unconscious OAP out of a burning building, please spare a thought for those of us in the acting community who are having to break sandwiches into bits in our hands before putting them in our mouths.
The Horrible Histories Prom 10th August 2011
You know the Royal Albert Hall, yeah? And you know the BBC Proms, right? And you know the TV show Horrible Histories?
...Yeah - you can probably see where I'm going this. Despite being at the top of my list of 'things that were unlikely to happen', on 30th July, the cast of Horrible Histories got to perform live at the Royal Albert Hall in front of over 6000 people, a live audience on radio 3, and a bunch of TV cameras. Accompanied by the 87 piece Aurora Orchestra (who are just incredible) and a 250 strong choir from Kids Company and The Music Centre, the resulting experience was amazing for all of us on stage and hopefully tolerable for the audience.
The Horrible Histories Big Prom Party will be broadcast on the CBBC Channel at 5:45pm on Friday 9th September and a sneaky peak can be found below - four of my favourite idiots performing as kings George, George, George and... I forget the last one.