Tag Archives: Silver Peevil

Slugs having sex, dogs high on drugs, sawing-up cars & comedy in cemeteries

The Bo Diddlers diddling last night (Photo by my eternally-un-named friend)

The Bo Diddlers last night via the comedian from Venus (Photograph by my eternally-un-named friend)

Strange things are happening.

No change there, then.

Last night I saw Ewan Wardrop aka The Silver Peevil, the stand-up comedian from 1930s Venus – aka a George Formby one-man play – aka a former Matthew Bourne principal dancer – perform an astonishing hour-long dance show Stump! with his six-man morris dancing troupe The Bo Diddlers.

It is very rare to see a morris dance based on The Midwich Cuckoos book/Village of The Damned film nor another based on what appeared to be the Dawn of Man ape sequence from the movie 2001. Astonishingly original choreography.

“They are gorgeous,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “Captivating. They made me feel like dancing. You know the way boy bands have dolls they sell to fans? This group could have figurines. You could arrange them dancing on your mantlepiece.”

“Maybe,” I said.

The Bo Diddlers are repeating the show at The Place tonight.

Soiree in a Cemetery

A fully sold-out soirée in a Cemetery somewhere in London

Which clashes with the one-off Martin Soan/Adam Taffler event Soirée in a Cemetery in which comedian Stewart Lee, the British Humanist Association Choir and others perform a comedy show in a Victorian cemetery somewhere in London (it’s a secret until later today) – all accompanied by cake and hot spiced cider from the Women’s Institute. Tickets have sold out.

Slightly eccentric you might think. But only comparatively.

I have received an email from mad inventor John Ward, who designed the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards trophies. He lives in Lincolnshire. He tells me he is in a documentary being premiered next Wednesday at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

The film is called A Different Drummer after a quote from Walt Whitman: I step to the beat of a different drummer. Not surprisingly, as John Ward is featured, it is about eccentrics. There is a trailer on YouTube.

What is it about Vancouver? Is it becoming the world centre of eccentricity? Or has the entire world gone doolally?

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith lives in Vancouver. She spotted a notice:

Notice spotted by Anna Smith in Vancouver

Anna Smith spotted this in an educational Vancouver building

ATTN: Debriefing for the Porn & Genital Image Online Survey and the Romantic Relationships & Mindfulness Online Survey will now be held in room 1606.

Anna has also been watching TV and tells me:

“On the CBC, the big news is veterinary. Doctors are saying that far too many stoned dogs are showing up at clinics and they wish the owners would just be honest about the problem, because vets have to give the dogs expensive blood tests. The laboratories found that although, in a few dogs, traces of cocaine and heroin were detected, the overwhelming majority of the dogs had ingested too much marijuana. However, the veterinarians said that it is not lethal, not a reason to panic and the most common side effect is that – I quote – It gives the dogs the munchies…”

Without pause or link, Anna then asked me:

“Just wondering, have you ever taken a picture of slugs fucking?”

A reasonable enough question (it seemed to her) but I had to say I had not, although my eternally-un-named friend appears to be on a barely-controllable mission to eradicate slugs from Planet Earth. She was out in the dark again late last night.

Slugs mating with something coming out the bottom (Photo by Cathleen Smith, Anna's mother)

Slugs mating with something coming out (Photo by Cathleen Smith, Anna’s mum)

“My mum,” Anna Smith told me. “took pictures of slugs fucking. They created a thin string of slime about a metre long and were dangling from the roof all day, possibly for several days. I visited my mother whist this blessed event was taking place. I don’t know which slug was emitting the slime or if it was both of them or what that blob of goo is. We live in what is left of a rainforest. Slugs love it. People make fun of them.

“My grandmother used to wonder why there was so much fuss about slugs. She once asked: Why don’t people just eat them? They eat snails.

Anna had no answer to this. Neither do I.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, John Ward has started to tinker with motorised vehicles again.

John Ward with small but effective fire engine

John Ward with his small but effective fire-fighting engine

He was last heard-of in this blog arranging and supervising a charity cabbage-hurling event, but his last motorised effort was creating what is apparently the smallest fire engine in the world, based on the chassis of a 3-wheeled Robin Reliant car. He created it because the British government has been trying to save money and has closed various local fire stations. John Ward likes to help out.

He tells me his next effort involves stripping down another Robin Reliant to the chassis.

“I took the car apart,” he told me, “but what do you do with the body? It’s too big for our local rubbish tip. So I got a small bench saw and reduced it to a wheel barrow full of smaller bits before putting them into carrier bags – Tesco ones of course as every little helps. Then I took it to the tip.”

I have no idea where any of this leads – neither the sawing-up of 3-wheeler cars nor taking photographs of slugs mating; neither trained ballet dancers doing morris dancing nor holding comedy shows in cemeteries.

I can only sit back and wait expectantly.

Strange things are happening.

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Filed under Comedy, Dance, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Nature

I saw an iPhone in a plastic box today and a brilliant comedy show last night

Today’s iPhone with sound enhancer

Today’s iPhone with sound enhancer amplifier

Before today’s blog, here is an addendum to yesterday’s…

My eternally-un-named friend who, in yesterday’s blog, came up with a cheap sound amplifier for iPads has today come up with a similar amplifier for iPhones. Basically, it involves putting the iPhone inside a larger plastic food container.

My newly-installed iGlass sound system

The iGlass sound system from two years ago

Personally, I think her idea of two years ago of putting the iPhone inside a funnel-shaped glass is more elegant and more in keeping with Apple’s design ethics.

It is a matter of style.

Anyway…

I have never been able to get my head round what it must be like for performers to triumph on stage. They have got the audience into such a state that there are laughs, tears, whatever. But, once that moment and that emotion is achieved, it is gone forever if it is not filmed or videoed. A live performance is perhaps seen fleetingly by a few hundred people and certainly within a few years is barely remembered in any detail. Indeed, perhaps that happens within a couple of days or a couple of hours.

A show that is recorded can be seen by thousands – potential millions – of people who were never there – and long after all who were there are dead.

No-one who was not there can ever know how good a particular show was unless it is recorded.

Lost – to quote Blade Runner – like tears in rain.

Which came to my mind because, last night, I saw what is certainly one of the five best live shows I have seen in, let’s say, the last five years.

It was one of the monthly, always fascinating, Pull The Other One comedy club shows in London’s Nunhead.

In roughly  alphabetical order, the acts were:

  • Candy Gigi Markham… This year’s winner of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality. I was sitting next to Mark Kelly (he writes with Jo Brand) who asked me beforehand what her act was like. I could do no better than quote that piece in Metro the other day which said it was an “almost indescribably odd act”. It is. It was. Both Mark and I laughed out loud: a rare thing.
  • Laurence Owen… with a spot-on song about how women’s roles are defined and limited in Walt Disney films – wonderfully complex and intelligent lyrics to a perfect pastiche of the whole gamut of Disneyesque tunes.
  • The Silver Peevil… top Matthew Bourne dancer Ewan Wardrop as his 1930s sci-fi Venusian character with a silver foil spaceship, a wry dismantling of sexism and (again) a perfect pastiche of a 1930s Hollywood song.
  • Two Pregnant Men – a new musical duo with three highly original rocked-up takes on internet trolls, supermarket cut-price deals and more. Not yer normal comedy act.
  • Wilfredo, Matt Roper’s extraordinary spittle-filled character cross between Barrie Humphries’ Sir Les Paterson and real-life Spanish heart-throb Julio Iglesias. I could barely hear this act at points because two women to my right were understandably screaming with laughter.
The bill for last night’s London show

The bill for last night’s South London show

And all of these acts were held together by the genuinely brilliant and charismatic compering skills of Lindsay Sharman who warmed the audience up by getting them to do whale and dolphin impressions (not a common technique) while she told a story – and who, at two points, shamelessly plugged her new novel by shoving copies in her bra. My eternally-un-named friend said to me: “She should be on television.”

Indeed she should. So should everyone on last night’s show.

Alas, ITV in particular is currently busy making disastrous remakes of 50-year-old formats. Who knows what misbegotten miscalculations Sunday Night at The Palladium will display tomorrow night as ITV continues to turn a silk purse into a dog’s dinner mishmash of decent acts and dumbed-down drossness.

I do not normally review shows as such because, in the medium and long term, it is a lose-lose situation for me. But the sheer brilliance of last night’s Pull The Other One show and the transient nature of live performance drew me to break my own rule. Well, the above was not really a review: it was more of a list. But hey-ho.

Sunday Night at The (apparently no longer London) Palladium is fair game for criticism because crass crap is always fair game. I could draw some obvious parallel between Sunday Night at The Palladium and putting an expensive iPhone into a cheap plastic food container, but it is too obvious.

The real talent, the really great comedy/variety shows at the moment are out there, transient, live and not on television.

I shall now try not to do anything remotely like a review for at least another twelve months.

The Silver Peevil danced the night fantastic

The Silver Peevil danced the night fantastic

One really annoying thing about last night was that I was enjoying the show so much I took no photographs. Your loss, not mine.

Incidentally, Ewan Wardrop aka The Silver Peevil (SPOILER ALERT!) does the opening to his act in quite a lengthy series of speeches in cod Venusian. He told me that, when he performed this act at Pull The Other One’s club in Leipzig earlier this month, a couple of Germans came up to the organisers after the show. “We liked the act,” they said, “but we were not able to understand some of what he said.”

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Why do British comedy clubs have to just book samey stand-up comedy acts?

The Silver Peevil danced the night fantastic

The Silver Peevil danced the night fantastic

In a not-yet-posted blog-chat with Dutch comedian Jorik Mol earlier this week, the subject came up of the difficulty of succeeding as a comedian in Britain when there are simply too many stand-up and wannabe stand-up comedians around.

British comedy clubs are having a tough time at the moment and I think one of the reasons is that they programme wall-to-wall stand-up comedians.

In the 1980s, when alternative comedy really WAS alternative, a typical comedy club bill might include a juggler, a poet and an indefinably anarchic act as well as straight stand-ups.

Nowadays, too often, there is no variation. It is all a bit samey. The stand-ups may be good, bad or indifferent but they are, basically, doing the same thing.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the comedy clubs were general comedy clubs. Now they are almost entirely stand-up comedy clubs.

In blogs before I have mentioned that many of the most original and funny comedy acts at the Edinburgh Fringe in the last couple of years were not listed in the Comedy section of the Fringe Programme but in the Cabaret section.

Last night, I saw a glorious night of comedy at Pull The Other One in South East London. It was their last show of the year, it was a real corker and there was not a single traditional stand-up on the bill. Unlike most comedy clubs, you did not know what TYPE of act was coming next.

Jon Hicks was simply indescribable (he describes himself as ‘The International Man of Artistry’) and his act involved three elephants, a hammer and scientific principles all on PTOO’s small stage.

Jody Kamali was a performer of note

Jody Kamali was a comedy performer of note

Jody Kamali seems to inhabit a different on-stage character every time I see him. This time, he managed to cram into one 20-minute spot three bizarre, physically active and visually surprising characters plus he dragged a dodgy punter on-stage and sucked the guy’s arm.

Ewan Wardrop – formerly a principal dancer with Matthew Bourne‘s company Adventures in Motion Pictures – managed to refine his already astonishing 1935 visitor from Venus act – The Silver Peevil – AND do a wonderful post-modernist George Formby pastiche AND sing original songs as himself.

The nearest thing to a traditional stand-up on the bill was Steve Best, performing his flawless act which could also be from another planet – It is like a recording of Tommy Cooper performing comedy on acid which is then run at 4-times normal speed.

All these extraordinarily original acts were presented by Lindsay Sharman in her charismatic thespian poetess compere mode with popping eyes and acrobatic lips – a face-changing, voice-morphing Joyce Grenfell for the 21st century.

What the Germans will make of a show like this when Vivienne & Martin Soan start their Pull The Other One shows in Leipzig in February I cannot even begin to imagine.

And nor do I know when a broadcast company will come to its senses and transfer Pull The Other One’s already fully-formed bizarre comedy variety show to television.

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I might have nominated this new UK comic for the Malcolm Hardee Award

Last night, I was at Vivienne & Martin Soan’s always odd comedy club Pull The Other One. Vivienne did part of her introductions in fluent German… of which I suspect we will hear more in the coming months.

As always, last night was a variety fan’s delight with Steve Aruni’s surreal act accompanied by a saxophone-playing vacuum cleaner, Lindsay Sharman in her persona of red-turbanned psychic advisor Madame Magenta (she should add even more songs to this character), Jody Kamali as a very-hands-on karmic Eastern healer, The Greatest Show on Legs searching for Dr Who amid stage smoke and Miles Jupp as the token stand-up comedian showing once again that, however successful he becomes, he is still vastly under-rated.

The second coming of The Silver Peevil

Visitor from Venus – The Silver Peevil returns

But, for me, the highlight of the evening was the second coming of The Silver Peevil, a successfully odd character ripped straight out of 1930s Hollywood Saturday morning adventure serials who is, he says, from Venus. I mentioned his first ever appearance in a blog two weeks ago.

After last night’s show, I was chatting to him. His Earth name is Ewan Wardrop.

He told me he was new to comedy and this was, indeed, only the second time he had ever performed the Silver Peevil act.

I was astonished because he was going on to me last night about being totally new to comedy – yet he was so self-assured (and so funny) on stage. The whole thing about being a newcomer did not gel.

From Venus and Edinburgh to Lancashire

This year, Formby is Edinburgh’s great loss

He said he had been a dancer and actor for about ten years. He told me he had performed at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe as George Formby in a one-man play he had written himself – Formby – I remember the show and had almost gone to see it, but it did not seem to fall within the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award area and it got elbowed-out by other shows.

He had performed as George Formby at Pull The Other One earlier this year but I had missed that. And he is touring the UK in his Formby play this summer and autumn. There is a trailer on YouTube.

But there was something about Ewan Wardrop that threw me last night. He seemed more confident on stage than someone with the experience he hinted at. This turned out to be because he was rather over-modest.

I checked him out afterwards.

He has acted in London at the Old Vic and for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the National Theatre… He has also appeared in theatrical runs on Broadway and Los Angeles and in Tokyo.

And he is a founding member of The Bo Diddlers – an ‘experimental’ Morris dance group formed in 2008 for the Brighton Fringe Festival. featuring performers from the contemporary dance world. There is a showreel on YouTube:

Which brings me on to what is now-stand-up-character-comedian Ewan Wardrop’s most interesting angle.

He attended the Royal Ballet School (where Morris dance was bizarrely taught as part of the curriculum) and all the dancers in the Bo Diddlers worked for Matthew Bourne’s contemporary dance company New Adventures. Ewan played leading roles in Bourne’s very highly acclaimed productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker!

Indeed, it turns out my eternally-un-named friend saw him perform in Nutcracker! at Sadler’s Wells in 2003.

If he were performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year in a full-length show as The Silver Peevil, instead of touring the country as Formby, I might be very tempted to nominate him for a Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.

Instead, I suspect his visible talent will probably be spotted elsewhere and he will make lots of money… something that does not necessarily happen if you win a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award – unless it is the ‘Act Most Likely To Make a Million Quid’ Award.

But there is definitely something unusual about Ewan Wardrop. Something which the late Malcolm Hardee and the very-much-alive Martin Soan were/are very good at spotting – genuine, original, mesmerising talent.

If you can’t see him as The Silver Peevil, see him in his self-penned biographical play Formby or – totally different – as George Formby singing modern rapper lyrics. There’s a clip on YouTube:

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