I tend to have a bit of a problem with character comedy, but any generalisation has its exceptions. Last night was one.
I went to an event called The Literary Cabaret: How to be a Bohemian, held as part of the Bloomsbury Festival at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel – that’s the new one inside the gloriously renovated OTT station building.
One of the performers was Ian Marchant, billed as “author of Something of the Night (to be published in January 2012) and six other books, and writer/presenter of several Radio 4 and TV series”.
This rang no bells.
He appeared as a rather shaky elderly gent called Lionel Spume, with a walking stick, and regaled us with autobiographical tales of his life, occasionally interrupted by forgetfulness. It was suitably highly sophisticated, very funny and, I suspected, required a not-yer-average comedy-club-going audience of a certain age, with its references to Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Set, Robert Graves, Burgess & Maclean and John Betjeman – whose wonderful statue in St Pancras station made Lionel Spume blubber with tears.
Lionel Spume’s performance also included some musique concrète he had allegedly written in the 1950s and he ended with a rap song which I think is called Elderly Rhymer. This would have brought the house down except that St Pancras station is so well-built. The soaring eccentricity of St Pancras perfectly matched Ian Merchant’s performance.
I wondered why I had never heard of him and, when I got home and Googled him, realised I actually had seen him a few months ago at Vivienne & Martin Soan’s monthly comedy event Pull The Other One, where he had performed in his other incarnation as half of comedy duo Your Dad – they have also performed at least seven times at the Glastonbury Festival, so that terminally scuppers any street cred I might aspire to.
I had actually talked to him at Pull The Other One and had been surprised he lived in Presteigne, Radnorshire.
Well, who would not be taken aback by that?
The moral to this blog is three-fold.
– Pull The Other One books some of the most interesting acts on the circuit
– there are astonishing hidden gems of comedy out there working mostly un-fêted by the media (except occasionally by Radio 4)
– interesting people can occasionally come out of Radnorshire
A version of Elderly Rhymer by Your Dad is on YouTube here: