“Certain things are always funny,” performer Martin Soan suggested to me yesterday as we drove to an ‘Auction of Horrors’ at The Old Elephant House in Leamington Spa.
“Bananas,” I suggested.
“Yes,” agreed Martin, “and fish.”
After Leamington Spa we went to Banbury where they were having a canal festival. By the canal – which looked more like a river to me – there was an old Elephant Wash. What is it with elephants in refined English towns?
The reason we went to Banbury was nostalgia for Martin. On the way to Leamington in the car, he had told me:
“I had an interesting experience in Banbury which lasted some time and developed into a relationship.”
“How many legs did it have?” I asked – lightheartedly, I thought.
“One had legs and the other one had fins,” said Martin inexplicably.
Perhaps he was joking; perhaps he wasn’t. I did not pursue it.
“I have a friend,” I told him truthfully, “who knows a doctor who works in Accident & Emergency at a hospital in Oxfordshire. At weekends, a surprising number of people come in on Saturday nights with objects which have to be extracted. Fish are a particular problem. If you insert them into your body head first, the scales are OK on the way in but, on the way out, more of a problem…”
“Have you ever seen Fish?” Martin asked.
“Loads,” I said.
“It’s an act,” said Martin. “I met her at the Ken Campbell Memorial Show which me and Viv (Martin’s wife) we were booked for.
“I met this girl backstage. She was very petite, very pretty and had a lovely, lovely multi-coloured, body-hugging costume on – loads of sequins and sparkly bits – And she had a very, very large black minder.
“Her costume was a work of art – gorgeous. But she was very, very small.
“I talked to her and her minder. It was all lovely and great and I was really looking forward to seeing her act, though it didn’t occur to me to ask what she actually did.
“Anyway, she closed the first half of the show. The audience was middle aged, from all shapes and forms of theatre. John Sessions and Chris Langham were in the audience.
“So Fish came on and there was a bit of lovely music – water-related in some sort of way – She came on, did a little shimmy, did a couple of over-arms impersonating swimming and shed all her costume. So she was standing there completely starkers and then she sucked up – not through her mouth – all the contents of a big bowl of liquid. There was a pause and then she squirted it all at the audience – to a distance of six, seven, maybe even ten metres – and drenched everybody. Then she went on to delicately suck up – not with her mouth – various goldfish of different sizes from a bowl and then she spat them back out – not using her mouth.”
“At the audience?” I asked.
“No,” said Martin. “Into the bowl. She wasn’t cruel to the goldfish.”
“Did the goldfish seem to enjoy it?” I asked.
“I’m not quite sure about the fish,” Martin told me, “but the audience were absolutely mortified. They had had Chris Langham on earlier doing Ken Campbell sketches and John Sessions reading bits of Ken Campbell’s poetry and Nina Conti talking to them and then suddenly there was this bombshell of an act. I roared and roared and roared with laughter. John Sessions and Chris Langham had bolted backstage as soon as the clothes came off.”
“Perhaps they knew what was coming,” I said.
“In the audience,” said Martin, “the ones who weren’t mortified were very vociferous in their dislike and disgust. The compère came on – I can’t remember who it was – and said Fish was Ken Campbell’s favourite act.”
“Memorable,” I said, “except presumably for the goldfish.”
“I guess so,” said Martin.
“It must be dull being a goldfish,” I said, “even when interesting things happen.”
“It’s difficult to know,” said Martin.
* * * * *
After the above blog was posted, I received the following message from Kev Wright:
Excellent to see the night remembered! It was organised by A Cracking Night Out.
Her name is actually Mouse not Fish.
I booked her and the compere was Psychic Dave – who ran the night with me.
We were very nearly banned from Glastonbury a few years ago for also putting Mouse on there, in a very small cabaret tent (Starred & Feathered) that we set up next to The Miniscule Of Sound without permission in the first place, let alone with Mouse pretending to be a dog sliding around in dog food and spraying the stunned audience with liquid as above – ‘playing’ with dog bones etc.
There were a teenage couple of hippieish indie kids sat on the floor right at the front whose faces I will never forget and who I imagine will never forget that night either!
“What did you see at the festival?” their mum may well have asked upon return…!!
I haven’t seen Mouse for a while but she is still performing I believe . .
Oh and i believe she did an act demonstrating the art of ventriloquism with ken campbell once in a rather unconventional way . . . .
That memorial night also ended up in the daily mail – hated of course!