So, on Wednesday afternoon, after the interring of the ashes of Joan Hardee, mother of the late comedian Malcolm Hardee, there I was sitting in the kitchen of his sister Clare Hardee’s home with comedians Martin Soan and Steve Bowditch – members with Malcolm of The Greatest Show on Legs.
We had sung When The Saints Come Marching In to Steve’s guitar accompaniment by the graveside.
Martin Soan is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with a Greatest Show on Legs production co-written by Boothby Graffoe but without Steve Bowditch performing. Steve will be at the Fringe as part of another threesome called We Should Get a Boat. Their show is entitled Sherlock Holmes: The Return of the Hound.
It is not listed in the main Fringe Programme though it is listed in the Free Fringe programme. The Edinburgh Fringe listings are getting increasingly complicated.
“Who do you play?” I asked Steve Bowditch. “Sherlock Holmes or the hound?”
“Mrs Hudson,” he replied. “Dickie Richards, the most handsome man in showbusiness, plays Inspector Lestrade… Paul Norcross plays trombone and Professor Moriarty.”
“Trombone?” I asked.
“Well, Mrs Hudson plays guitar,” Steve explained patiently, “so, obviously, he plays the trombone.”
“And is there a hound involved?” I asked.
“We-e-e-l…” Steve prevaricated, “essentially not.
“Because?” I asked.
“Because it’s all an illusion of theatre,” Steve responded, putting on a posh voice. “For poetic licence, Johnny.”
“And who wrote it?” I asked.
“Me. Steve Bowditch, the actor.”
“Do you put on a Scottish accent as Mrs Hudson?” I asked.
“I don’t do accents, Johnny!” Steve replied, his voice rising to a thespian screech. “I am a character actor, Johnny! Haven’t you seen the Harry Hill bloody TV show where I did all those lovely characters?!”
“But what about Mrs Hudson’s Scottish accent?” I persisted.
“I don’t know what bloody accent Mrs Hudson had!” Steve screamed in an even higher-pitched voice. “It’s my interpretation of the character that matters, for Christ sake! I am an ac-tor! I am the…”
“Ah!” I said, interrupting, “I was getting Mrs Hudson the housekeeper in Sherlock Holmes confused with Mr Hudson the butler in Upstairs Downstairs. He had a Scottish accent. Gordon Jackson. I used to work with his son.”
“Well, you got it wrong,” said Steve. “I am Mrs Hudson. You’re a lovely lad, Johnny. A lovely lad.”
“Is it a comedy drama?” I asked.
“It’s a non-comedic straight part funny thriller… that thing. Something like that. What I said. Yes.”
“You’ve done try-outs?”
“We’ve done five dress rehearsals in front of audiences.”
“We got a one star award. On the Time Out website, a lady who saw it said she would have given it none if it weren’t for the electronic website media she was forced to use… but she walked out halfway through, the bloody cow. A bloody cow she is!”
“When was the last time you were at the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.
“I dunno. The last time was when I went up with Charlie Chuck for Malcolm and Malcolm’s been dead seven years, so…”
“So maybe not this century?” I said. “Which venue were you at?”
“The old Gilded Balloon before it burnt down. We’re coming back to take our rightful place, Johnny,” Steve said, his voice rising. “We’re coming back to knock all those other young Turpins off their…”
“Turpins?” I asked.
“Turpins!” shouted Steve. “I can say Turpin if I like… For the money, Johnny. It’s for the money! Dickie wanted to go up, so we’re going to go up and see what happens.”
At this point, Martin Soan interrupted.
“He’s not appearing in my show with the Greatest Show on Legs. Why, I don’t know.”
“Because ours is a far superior show,” said Steve. “I left the Greatest Show on Legs not because of artistic differences but for artistic increases!”
“Increases?” I asked.
“Increases,” said Steve.
“Increases?” asked Martin.
“Definitely Increases,” said Steve.
“You can’t talk about what’s in the Greatest Show on Legs show, can you?” I asked Martin. “Because it gives it away too much if you say you…”
“I want to get back to the reason why Bowditch is not in my show…” said Martin.
“We can’t talk about that in print, can we?” I asked.
“I’m not in Edinburgh,” Martin persisted, “when Steve’s show is running and his show has finished by the time The Greatest Show on Legs’ show starts. But it’s The Greatest Show on Legs. You, Bowditch, should be in the fucking show!”
“I should be in the fucking show…” Steve started to say.
“Don’t swear in front of John,” Martin said, “because he writes the swearing down in his blog. Don’t fucking swear, because…”
“But when I…” started Steve.
“Fucking stop it!” said Martin. “He’ll just print it in his blog.”
“It’s in my contract with Peter Buckley Hill and the Free Fringe,” joked Steve, “that I’m not allowed to talk to Martin Soan while he’s in Edinburgh. If I see Martin Soan whilst I’m in Edinburgh, Peter Buckley Hill says I have to cross the street.”
“I’m more interested in the sheep,” I said to Steve. “Martin told me he was borrowing your sheep for the Greatest Show on Legs’ show in Edinburgh and I…”
“Bowditch gave me the sheep,” Martin interrupted, “and I’m very, very flattered.”
“How many sheep?” I asked.
“Six,” Martin replied.
“Why?” I asked.
“We are going to recreate the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games at The Hive venue in Edinburgh.”
“Yes, obviously. To make it as close to the real thing as we can.”
“It’s actually four sheep and one sheepdog,” Steve corrected.
“So what is the thing with Peter Buckley Hill?” Clare Hardee asked.
“Well,” said Martin. “PBH has banned Bowditch from performing in our show because he runs the Free Fringe and our show is in Bob Slayer’s Alternative Fringe which is linked to the Free Festival who PBH is at loggerheads with.”
“Am I actually allowed to say that in my blog?” I asked Steve Bowditch.
“I think you should just let things lie,” he said.
“Get as much publicity as fucking possible, John!” said Martin.
“Well, you gotta do what you wanna do,” said Steve. “As long as I win the Malcolm Hardee Award.”
“How much are you prepared to pay?” I asked.
“Look, John,” said Steve, “It’s in Malcolm’s memory. So you lend me £500 and let me win.”
“That’ll do for a blog,” I said. “That’s enough. This is the way to write blogs. Get other people to supply all the words.”
“You didn’t plug my show, though,” said Martin.
“Who’s fault is that?” I asked.
“No, that’s the end line,” said Martin. “You didn’t plug my show, though.”
“Ah,” I said. “Did I tell you I used to work with Gordon Jackson’s son?”
“Now you’ve blown the end line,” Martin said.
“No-one will know,” I said. “People don’t know what hasn’t been written or what was said and cut out.”