Bookmark and Share

Tuesday 7th February 2006

Every now and again I get asked to do a gig that differs from the usual ones. The Elton John debacle is perhaps the most notable example. Tonight I was performing at Llandovery College, a boarding school in the middle of Wales somewhere (I don't know where I was, I just followed my sat nav's instructions).
One of the teachers had been to see Talking Cock a few years ago with some of her sixth formers and had told me then that she'd love for me to come and perform in the school theatre and finally this year we were able to arrange a night, though I was doing Someone Likes Yoghurt rather than the knob show, only because I've stopped doing it now, not for reasons of taste - in fact the yoghurt show is in much more dubious taste than the rather charming festival of schlongs.
Indeed I had been worried about performing some of the material in a school, even though I knew that only sixth formers would be allowed to come along and I didn't want my rants about religion and dairy products to get anyone into trouble or to offend people unnecessarily. With recent events it might just take one off colour joke to create a Holy War between Wales and England, because we live in a world where rubbish jokes are now incitement enough to set fire to buildings and kill people. Maybe people just like to have an excuse to get angry and smash things, which is why absolutes like religion are a great thing. I actually think the Danish cartoons shouldn't have been published, largely because they are shit and not very funny. Even with free speech I think you have to think about the consequences of what you say and do. On the other hand I think adults should be sensible enough to know that they can rise above people's idiocy. Whatever your beliefs a cartoon or an opinion (however wrong) is not worth people dying for. I love the world. We are so fucked.
So it was a somewhat surreal gig from the start and the small auditorium was far from full, though four elderly locals had joined the crowd who were largely between the ages of 16-18. The sixth formers had been bribed with a free drink in the interval if they attended and I told the elderly gentleman that he wouldn't be able to pass himself off as that young so he shouldn't try. There wasn't a flicker of amusement on his old Welsh face. I guessed before I had started that they wouldn't stay for the second half - though they sat uncomplainingly and unamused throughout the first half.
It was a cold start and the Kipling routine seemed to leave most people in bemused silence and I thought it might turn out to be a long night, but I chucked in a couple of new one liners and the ice seemed to break. A row of women near the front who I thought were teachers, but were actually parents on the Parent Teacher Association, were particularly enjoying themselves, which is lucky because they would have been in a position to cause a fuss if they'd been offended.
The response gave me confidence to go further with the dodgy stuff that I had intended and it was good that I didn't have to censor myself too much. I am not like the Rolling Stones. No-one gets me to change my stuff, though it felt wrong doing the bit about priests having sex with boys in a school so I cut that bit short. Yes Denmark, you have to consider your audience's feelings a little. You Danish idiots.
But on the other hand Muslims, if you're right about your God then surely He is capable of punishing any wrong doing Himself so sit back smugly and wait for the next life. An infinity of punishment is surely a more satisfying result than burning down a building. Or aren't you quite sure about what's going to happen so want to make sure now? Oh whatever, everyone is an idiot in this situation so let's unite on what we agree about.
There was a nice moment in the second half when I asked if anyone knew how yoghurt had been invented and a voice piped up immediately, "It was milked from a dead camel!" I liked the unexpectedness and sharpness of this response and questioned the young man responsible on why he had chosen a camel rather than the more traditional cow or goat. I wondered if it was to do with the fact that camels had a couple of humps and in his school-boy mind humps are connected with lactation. It was a nice moment and the first good response I have ever had to that bit of the show.
In the end it was a nice gig and I think most people got something out of it. As I closed I remarked that I had got a free drink at the interval despite not being a sixth former and one of the teachers or parents commented that I could pass myself off as one if I liked. In a reference that was lost on the youngsters I said, "You think I could come and study here? I'd be like Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School. Except I would try and fuck all the girls." It's funny because it's true.
It's a good job I didn't follow in the family business of becoming a teacher.
I chatted with some of the lads at the school afterwards and they seemed like an intelligent and personable bunch and it was good to be able to discuss some of the issues from the show in more detail. In the end I was really glad I did the show here and that I didn't compromise too much. It's a whole new branch for theatre in education to look into.

Bookmark and Share



Buy my new book/ebook/audiobook "Would You Rather?" (get stickers and a signed bookplate from gfs. Also available as a very different audiobook with the brilliant Stevie Martin
Help us make more podcasts by becoming a badger You get loads of extras if you do.