Much fun in the modest Riviera of Torquay. Drove in listening to Thomases Waits and Tallis and munching Caramel Bunnies; today dusky pink skies, smell of barbeques and late-awakening Sunday Valentines couples. The show last night felt like a good one, and the audience was decidedly rowdier than in Swansea. Apparently the stalls featured a large man who having once appeared on Come Dine With Me, requested (and sarcastically got) special treatment at the start of the show from our crew, and then was noisy throughout. Most of his party were ejected before the second half, during which the duty manager sat with this chap to make sure he behaved. Thus the second act was very much delayed, and the audience energy at the end was, I think, unavoIdably affected. Tonight may prove to be a different, couply, loved-up sort of crowd.

Apologies to a chap called Sam from whom, in a fluster to keep signing at stage door, I grabbed a ticket rather rudely. If you know Sam, please pass on my apologies. I think I may have been grossly disappointing to meet because of it, and I hate that.

My hotel room, though of high chintz, is proving a great place to work with it’s ocean view, so I am keeping tucked away.

Thank you for coming if you did, and I hoped you enjoyed it. It was a fun night

Patrick Page lives on

I’ve just heard the very sad news that Patrick Page has passed away. Magicians worth their salt will be know that Patrick was a genius of our craft, and a famously generous man. I knew him a little from his consultancy work on some of my projects: he was a brilliantly rude, sharp-witted, sensationally likeable Scot, better at magic and more knowledgeable than any of us. All of us at Objective are devastated by the news. For some time, the sheer force of his personality has kept him going through illness, but now he doesn’t need to fight any more. At the same time, as with any powerfully creative force, he will live on strongly and defiantly through his work and the legacy he leaves. There’s a bit of Patrick every night in Enigma, and in countless other performances happening now across the world.

It is an honour to have known him, and to continue to know him through his particular genius. Much love to his friends and family from all of us.


Finishing in Swansea

Last night was a classic second night – all good, and very happy with it, but was aware I wasn’t quite on top of it in the same way as the first night. Had a bit of a senior moment in the second half, but all went well. It all read fine, and the show was a good one. Tonight will most likely be an equally textbook third night: aware of a tiny dip on the second, you find renewed vigour for the third and it goes extremely well. After that, it’s just great fun and you’re in the hands of chance from night to night.

Would love to talk about favourite moments – Olly provided one – but don’t want to spoil anything for people coming to see it for the first time. Managed to cut my finger fairly badly at some point but I carried on like the brave little bunny that I am.

Intrigued to hear a white Swansea teenager talk to me with the cross-racial street patois I have previously only heard used by London’s self-possessed minors. The mixture of trademark South-Wales cadence and hip hop argot was far richer than our duller, flatter, more obvious version. This is an especially lovely part of the UK when it comes to dialect. Am fascinated to know to what extent our accents affect how we are perceived and therefore our behaviour: this local lilting speech, for example, must trigger something in the listener that suggests questioning and engagement, and in turn makes the speakers seem more rather more alert, friendly, and lovely to be around. Which surely, in turn, makes them nicer people. A wonderful self-perpetuating process, if it’s at all true.

Last show here tonight then up early for a long drive to Torquay.


First Night Last Night

Wow – thank you any of you who were there last night. I really appreciate your comments, and am delighted you enjoyed it. It went well, and we were all very happy afterwards. The little changes all seemed to work, and it looks like one new bit in particular will be fine… we were worried it might not pay off. Saying nothing more.

Have spent the day discussing a new idea for a TV special which I think could be very exciting.

The Monster Munch are arriving… I have been requested to remind you all that Roast Beef is the preferred flavour, so the prize for leaving the most, I’m told, will only apply in cases where that particular flavour has been left. Although I imagine that after a couple of months they’re going to be sick of Roast Beef and will start asking for Pickled Onion. Either way, for those of you daft and generous enough to bother buying and bringing these maize snacks for my presumptuous team-members, don’t forget to leave your details if you’re aiming to win the prize. (They’ll decide on what the prize is as we go along. It’ll be a good one, apparently).

Second nights famously take extra effort. It’s a curious theatre rule. A good first night usually means a poor second, and vice versa. The reason is, that it’s easy to relax if you do really well the first night and then, without the concentration that comes from first-night adrenalin and nerves, you slip up or drop energy on the second. Likewise, if you have a terrible first night, you put in extra effort for the second, correct any problems, and do much better. So for us, there’s always particular attention paid on a second night to make sure it’s at least as good as the first.

We shall see. Certainly it should be a lot of fun.


Here we go!

Sat in our Swansea hotel, on the morning of this tour’s first show. Last night we had a tech run of the show, and all was good, save a couple of issues relating to the few bits we’ve tinkered with. Today we’ll get them ironed out before the performance.

Our crew are all very excited to be back on the road. It’s been seven months or so since we closed in the West End with this show, but once we’re all hanging about in the very familiar backstage area of a theatre, that gap closes rapidly. We have a new member of the group – Jonas – whom we all like very much indeed. And we’re missing Andy, last year’s tech genius, who isn’t with us this time. This year we also have the pleasure of a driver and huge lorry to haul our set and props from venue to venue, which takes much of the strain off our team. On previous years, Simon (our stage manager), Coops, Jennie and Iain have had to arrive in the morning, unload the set from the vans, build the show, set up the lighting and sound, then in the case of a one-nighter, dismantle the whole thing and then heave it all into tiny vans afterwards before driving it to the next venue for early morning. It’s gruelling. This year has very few one-night shows, and the job of unloading, loading and driving is left to a nice man with a big truck. Get in. And get out.

We are a tight-knit family. Coops, of course, is my much-treasured PA the rest of the year, and Jennie and Iain have the more delicate jobs of being my make-up and co-writer friends respectively when we’re not on the road. Touring with such close friends is a huge treat. And we all adore Simon, our touring stage manager, who feels like the grown-up of the group.

There is also, of course, the immense pleasure of performing the show. Each of the four shows has had its own flavour, and have felt different to do. Enigma and Evening of Wonders have been particular pleasures, but I think the current one just takes the lead for me. It’s enormous fun to do. For those that wonder how repeating the same two hours night after night can possibly be so enjoyable, I see your point. But as a performer, if I may appear so revolting, my job is to try to re-create it rather than repeat it: the difference being that I must be sure to remain ‘present’ and ‘in’ it and so on, from moment to moment, so that I am always interested in and engaged with what I’m doing. On a few occasions I have found myself distracted and realised that I have switched to auto-pilot, which is a terrible thing: the equivalent of reading pages of a book without taking anything in. It can also lead to problems: if you are simply saying script without feeling it, it’s all too easy to miss out a chunk or worse, repeat yourself. So each night it feels fresh and fun for me, and the idea is that this affects the way that the show communicates to the audience.

Also, I get to enjoy several months – five this time! – without the constant frustrations of television imposing. My yearly television output takes eight months to conceive, write, film and edit, with all those elements overlapping each other. Budgets are understandably never high enough, and ideas are constantly having to be compromised, or new ones found before horrendous deadlines. The initial joy that comes from finding the ‘hook’ of the show is too often drained by these unavoidable concerns as the months roll on. With the touring, however, we have only the pressure to write and rehearse the show in time, and then ten days or so of of letting it settle in and making any major changes. After that, there is only the pleasure of finding, night after night, little improvements to include for the next show. No demands are made, no pressures added: all the work is done.

There is still much to do: in the days I am finishing a book on which I have been working piecemeal for some time, and on my days off there is TV writing and filming to be done. But having the afternoons free to quietly book edit (or noisily, sat in some cafe) is the one of the greatest pleasures I can think of, and somehow the tour experience – despite it being physically tiring and relentless – feels like enough of a holiday to refresh me enough for the other bits of work.

It’s also always fun to say hello to some of you after the show who are kind enough to wait around in often hugely unfavourable conditions. Forgive me in advance when time permits only a very rushed greeting or, on very rare occasions, no hello at all, but I shall always do my best. Above all, thank you for coming, booking tickets, giving them as gifts, dressing up, travelling some distance to see the show, or doing any one of a number of very flattering things on my account.

Right. Must see what this place does for lunch, and get on top of a few lines for tonight. Eek!