Tag Archives: Pervland

Laurence Owen – a Pervland pasticher who could have been Harry Potter

Lawrence’s album: Lullabies of Pervland

Not normal actor-turned-comedian-turned-composer-singer

Last night, a well-known agency staged a ’comedy showcase’ of some of their acts. There were around ten acts.

With the exception of one-and-a-half acts, it was a laughter-free zone.

They were actors and actresses showcasing their acting talent without interruption by humour. They were not comedians.

The result of actors trying to be comedians to ‘fill-in’ before they get ‘proper’ acting jobs is almost always a terrible, humorless dog’s dinner. It is usually a Pyrrhic victory of performance skills over comedy.

Which is why Laurence Owen is a joy to behold. His show Lullabies of Pervland has a humdinger of a song about how women’s roles in Disney movies are defined and limited – it has wonderfully complex and intelligent lyrics performed by Laurence to a perfect pastiche of the whole gamut of Disneyesque tunes. He acts as four characters in the song, including a wiseguy bird from, it seems, the Bronx. A wondrous blend of acting, singing, composition and comedy.

“Disney women don’t have a huge amount going for them after a certain point,” Laurence explained to me. “Their career options are limited and there’s always at least one dead parent – usually the mum  – which leaves these young characters flailing and alone so they can have scary adventures. The Lion King is Hamlet with lions.”

“The thing is,” I said, “you act your Disney pastiche song so well.”

“Well, when I was little,” said Laurence, “I used to be a kid actor. I did various bits and bobs. I was in a film called Wilde with Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde.”

“Heavens!” I said. “You weren’t the one who got buggered?”

“No,” said Laurence. “That was Jude Law. I played Stephen Fry’s son.”

Laurence Owen not Harry Potter

Laurence Owen – not Harry Potter

He also auditioned for the part of Harry Potter.

“I suppose I probably look more like Harry Potter now,” said Laurence.

“So,” I asked, “you wanted to be an actor, not a musical performer?”

“Yeah. I started off as an actor. I was six when I started. I did a costume drama thing for the BBC about nannies – Berkeley Square – and I played a young Brian Blessed in a film called The Mumbo Jumbo which was mad but had a great cast – Sylvester McCoy, Melinda Messenger, John Inman from Are You Being Served?, Richard O’Brien from The Rocky Horror Show, Joss Ackland, Brian Blessed…”

“To have Joss Ackland and Brian Blessed in the same film is quite something,” I said.

“There is a lot of shouting in it,” said Laurence. “I never met Brian Blessed, but they curled my eyebrows up into these big spikes and put grey in my temples, even though I was playing a 10-year-old version of Brian Blessed and I had this one line which I had to deliver in a cod Brian Blessed voice.

“My voice broke when I was about 11 and, after that, I stopped getting work. When I was 12, I looked and sounded about 14 and no-one is interested in that; they want people who can play younger. I went and saw my agent and she basically told me I was not cute enough any more.”

“But you still wanted to perform.”

“Yes. About the same time this happened – about the age of 12 – I started learning the guitar and forming little bands at school and we made little albums. I made my first album when I was 13 and it’s practically unlistenable to, but I’m quite glad we did it. I got into Pink Floyd and things like that – old bands. Throughout my teenage years, I made a load of very over-reaching, quite wanky prog rock things on acoustic guitars.”

There is a video on YouTube of Laurence (centre), aged 18, singing with a band called Freak Kitchen.

“And, all this time, my mum was taking me to the Edinburgh Fringe every year,” Laurence told me.

“Why?”

“Because she loves it. I think this year was her 22nd consecutive year. Never been a performer, just a punter. She’s a champion hobbyist. She’s heavily involved in the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, edits The Sherlock Holmes Journal and goes on jaunts across Switzerland to the Reichenbach Falls and all that. She’s learning Japanese now.”

“Why?”

“Because she’s interested in eccentric islands.”

“So she took you to the Fringe every year?”

“Yes. I remember, aged 10, seeing Simon Munnery and feeling Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this before! He was doing his League Against Tedium. I remember being really, really inspired by it.”

“At that point,” I asked, “did you want to be a straight stand-up comic?”

“No. I discovered comedy by accident. I went up to Edinburgh every year for years, then started doing music, went to university in Brighton to study music and had this vague idea I would be a composer for a living. Then I moved back to London and started working in my old school in the music department as a kind of admin slave.

“At the same time, I was also performing slightly humorous shanty-type storytelling type songs with bits of weird, dark humour at these very earnest music nights with singer-songwriters who were whingeing on about their girlfriends. The audience really hated my songs and I was getting really down. No-one was interested at all and I was going to just stop and not bother any more, but my flatmate said: We run a little comedy night. Why don’t you come and try it out there?”

There is a showreel of Laurence’s musical comedy material on YouTube.

“So you started doing music-based gigs at comedy clubs,” I said. “But you were never interested in being a straight stand-up?”

“I’m a bit scared of that,” said Laurence. “I don’t think I quite have it in me. And I don’t really want to be a club comedian. I’m not entirely sure what I want to do yet, but I know it’s fairly cross-genre. Bits of all sorts of performance practices. For the new show, which I’m starting to formulate at the moment, I’m not having any guitar at all. It’s going to be all big backing tracks in the same way I do my Disney song.

“The new show (for Edinburgh 2015) is called Cinemusical and it’s gonna be a show about different aspects of film music, apeing all sorts of different film genres and casting a load of mis-matched characters together in a hybrid. I’m going to cast members of the audience as different characters. There will be a gunslinger Western character, a Lara Croft style Indiana Jones type person.”

Cinemusical_LaurenceOwen

“So,” I asked, “you’re going to do pastiches of Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann?”

“A few years ago,” said Laurence, “I did make a concept album in the style of Ennio Morricone called South of The River – set in South London. It was about a day in the life of a charity fundraiser, going up to people in the street. He was a kind of lonely guy who got through his existence by pretending to be Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name. So, in his own brain, each of these encounters was like a duel and the album was the music which was playing in his head as he was going up to people in the street. It was basically a spaghetti western set inside a man’s head.”

There is a video from it on YouTube – a song called A Moment of Your Time.

“I think pastiche is what I’m interested in. I’ve now got to the stage where I do make a living by performing and composing. I’m a composer for film and theatre.

“At the moment, I’m working for a theatre company called 1927. I think they’re called that because that was the year the movie Metropolis came out. They get a lot of influence from silent films. They have live actors and actresses who interact with projected animation on a huge screen the size of the stage. And they have a live pianist. The show I’m working with them on at the moment is a show called Golem, based on the Jewish folk tale and on the silent film. They have a pianist and a drummer for this one and, to complement the stuff they’re playing live, I’ve made a pre-recorded sound score which goes on around it. It’s being staged at The Young Vic in December.”

“Do you have any urge left to act?”

“I’d quite like to.”

“You should do Harry Potter: The Musical.”

“I’d love to do that.”

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Comedian Lindsay Sharman is a greater writer than William Shakespeare.

Lindsay performed  in London last night

Magenta was performing in London last night

Comedy stage performer Lindsay Sharman is a greater writer than William Shakespeare.

I do not actually think that.

She is good, but she has just this week published a novel Magenta with a quote from me on its back cover and I want to try to be quoted again as a supposedly authoritative source.

Last night I saw Lindsay perform a preview of her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe comedy show Madame Magenta: Libros Mystica.

It was in a double bill with her boyfriend Laurence Owen’s music-based comedy show Laurence Owen: Lullabies of Pervland.

“I know one couple who are both comedians and they never get involved in each other’s work,” I told them after the show. “Do you ever work together at home?”

“We bounce a lot of stuff off each other,” said Laurence.

“Oh we do all the time,” said Lindsay.

A selfie of Lawrence and Lindsay at home last night

A ‘selfie’ of Laurence and Lindsay’s homelife taken last night

“Quite often,” said Laurence, “we’ve set aside nights where we go to a cafe in Waterloo that stays open late. When we were talking about our Edinburgh shows this year we went there. It’s very useful to have Lindsay talk sense to me.”

“And it helps,” I suggested, “that you’re not really performing the same type of material.”

“I’m not really musical at all,” said Lindsay.

“The music’s covered,” said Laurence. “I can deal with that because my day job is composing bits and bobs for theatre and films.”

“He’s currently,” said Lindsay, “doing something for the theatre group 1927. They’re going into the Young Vic and he’s doing the soundscape.”

Lawrence’s album: Lullabies of Pervland

Another thing to sell after the gigs: Laurence’s musical album

In the preview I had just seen, Laurence had not yet written the music for the final song, though he had written the words, so he read them out.

“I was amazed,” I told him, “that you could write the words first when the rhythm and presumably the melody keeps changing.”

“I have to write the lyrics before I know what the song is all about,” Laurence explained. “The lyrics dictate the music. But I’ve got the melodies in my head for that final song.”

“It’s going to be a little bit Zorba The Greek, isn’t it?” said Lindsay.

“Yes,” agreed Laurence, “a little bit like Zorba and a little bit like Offenbach’s Can-Can. That’s kind of what I’m hearing.

Lawrence Owen (Photograph by Plainview Media)

Laurence Owen prepares for his Fringe show (Photograph by Plainview Media)

“I tend to write the songs as a sort of poem first of all and, while I do that, I’ll probably be hearing a sort of vocal melody in my head which I’ll be using to help shape the lyrics. I might sometimes cheat and base it on another song and change all the music after I’ve finished.”

“This is like people asking Where do you get your ideas from?” said Lindsay.

“And then, when you tell ‘em, they don’t give a shit,” said Laurence.

“But it does interest me,” I pleaded. “What’s your book about, Lindsay?”

“Oh, no,” she said. “Now I feel like I have to be coherent.”

“Why?” I said. “Let’s not spoil things.”

I had driven down to London from Leeds the previous night, went to bed at 5.00am and got up again at 8.30am. I was blabbering from an empty head.

The cover of Lindsay Sharman’s novel

The cover of Madame Magenta’s novel

“It’s a novel,” said Lindsay.

“In character as Madame Magenta,” I said. “Who is a psychic and medium and white witch and who wears a rather fetching red turban.”

“The turban is hot under stage lights,” said Lindsay. “The book is written from the point of view of Magenta. She goes off on an adventure.”

“Why write it?” I asked.

“To sell after gigs,” she replied.

“But it wasn’t totally money-driven…” I said.

“It was a sort of personal challenge,” explained Lindsay. “Everyone thinks they have a book inside of them and I thought: Let’s see if I actually am capable of it. Also I felt that my comedic voice or my ability to communicate with an audience might translate into the written word.”

The blurb on the back says:


Renowned psychic and medium Madame Magenta has two husbands. Fortunately, one of them is dead. Less fortunately, death has turned him into a massive pain in the arse.

Magenta has three days to return husband no.1 to the Other Side, or she’s stuck with him for good. Only dubious doings, dark magic and dealings with the criminal underworld can help her now.

“A Joyce Grenfell for the 21st Century” – John Fleming, founder of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards


Lindsay Sharman last night, as Madame Magenta

Madame Magenta on stage at Pull The Other One

I think that last quote will be the thing that sells the book.

“I’ve read voraciously since I was a kid,” Lindsay told me last night, “and I thought: If I’ve absorbed all these books and I’ve started developing my voice comedically then surely I’m capable of forming some kind of decent novel?

“Why written by Madame Magenta and not Lindsay Sharman?” I asked.

“Because I started writing and didn’t know where I was going to go,” explained Lindsay. “She was an already-formed character, so I knew how she thought and what she’d do and I had a vague idea of her family life and context.”

“Yes,” I said, “I had no idea until he was mentioned in the show tonight that she had a husband.”

Lindsay Sharman as herself in a selfie

Lindsay Sharman being herself in a recent selfie

“Oh,” said Laurence, “he’s very well explored in the book.”

“The book is a bit of a different animal to the stage show,” said Lindsay, “but it’s still recognisably her.”

“And it’s a comic novel,” I checked, “not a deep exploration of the human psyche?”

“I don’t think I’m capable of writing that kind of thing,” said Lindsay.

“I suspect you are,” I said.

“I think,” said Lindsay, “I’d have to take everything a bit more seriously than I probably do. I think I deal with everything through humour and that’s why I became a comedian.”

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