Hull, first night

Last night was especially fun. A day off (Wednesday had been a travelling day from Eastbourne to Hull) always brings a slight scattiness to the performance, which was all part of the fun created by a terrific audience. Eastbourne crowds are lovely but famously quiet, so it was encouraging to really feel the presence of the audience again. The participants too were lively and fun – all very much appreciated. I really loved the show.

It was a real pleasure to meet so many of you afterwards too: thank you those of you who bought prezzies for me and the crew. Particular mention to the delightful Elizabeth who had brought far too many generous gifts wrapped in impressively home-produced ‘Derren Brown’ wrapping paper. Thank you all. And I know Coops was very impressed with his Roast Beef Monster Munch T-shirt last night: an excellent coup, I thought, pun intended.

It is such a sweet thing to occasionally be handed a little prezzie from someone who’s enjoyed the show, but please don’t go over the top with them. Think we’re going to need a bigger truck…

Today I must persevere with TV writing accompanied by the brilliant Iain: some pressure is on to assemble ideas into a produceable format. Together we shall pace my small room and sweat blood until a new nugget of sparkling televisual gold is alchemically formed. Or not: more likely we’ll settle on an idea that seems ridiculous in the morning. I’m also doing a TV interview this afternoon for BBC ‘Look North’, during which I shall insist on looking North. They want to do it in a dressing room, but I don’t think they’ve seen how small the dressing rooms are. I don’t have long to think of a few amusing things to have in the background… false goatees lined up on polystyrene heads, that sort of thing.

Thanking you.



I arrived at Bristol to find a note in my dressing room from Dara O’Briain wishing me enjoyable shows with the bright and energetic crowds of Bristol. And he was very right in his description. Bristol is famously a great house to play: the roar when I came on stage was long and deafening, and audience and participants alike were fantastic. The first night it really took me by surprise and I hugely enjoyed myself. The second night, the adrenalin wasn’t there so much and I think I was a little under par, and then the third was good fun again.

We stayed in the wonderful Hotel Du Vin, which kicks the ass of any other hotel on tour. Impeccable.

Friday we went to the Zoo and had a great tour day out. Saturday was tea round at Peter Clifford’s, whom some of you will know from The Devil’s Picturebook and The Heist. Others of you may know my dear friend from his roles in the stunningly good Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory seasons. They’re about to do The Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream in the gorgeous Tobacco Factory theatre where I got started, so do go along if you can. It was a wonderful stay in my beautiful University home.

We are now in Eastbourne. It’s a very different crowd, but the shows have been good so far. A good friend has come over from the States to see the show (and Andy’s Ghost Stories) and today we had a bloating pub lunch in the nearby village of Alfriston, which I may have spelt correctly. Our hotel is a stranger to wi-fi, so I have been slow on blog entries. I type this, as I tend to tweet, face down in a steamer sat in my dressing room.

Excitingly, I am trying out something new in the show. It’s a new ending to one of the pieces that felt like it needed it. It’s really enjoyable to let it settle in and make these sorts of changes. Keeps one on ones tootsies.




After the unwelcoming place near Buxton, it’s a joy to have stayed in the Malmaison on the Liverpool docks (‘malmaison’ = ‘bad house’, still don’t get that) where the staff could not be any more accommodating and delightful. I am assured by a friend who knows someone who knows someone that my particular room was once occupied by Amy Winehouse, which is very exciting. Have searched the room for any trace, but housekeeping have presumably done an excellent job in the meantime. Oh dear, we couldn’t be any less rock and roll as a touring troupe.

Liverpool has been immense fun. It’s a tricky room to play: the beautiful Empire auditorium is set far away from the stage, and sucks up most of the sound of the audience, so it takes a bit of acclimatising to realise that the audience are actually enjoying it. The tiny Buxton Opera House threw back much more noise at me. Having said that, the roar at the end of both shows here was quite something, and, if I may be so fat-headed, the spontaneous 2000-strong standing ovations looked just amazing from my perspective on the stage. So thank you Liverpool, you were spectacular. Some really touching gifts and letters from people, and a warmth and loveliness at stage door which are hard to come by anywhere else in the country. (Having said that, the first night did bring one pissed guy up on stage in the first half, but for the brief time I kept him up there he was pretty funny).

I’ve noted that people are very kindly tweeting in the interval – please do your best not to give anything away that you’ve seen in the first half though, if you don’t mind. It’s lovely to meet so many of my Twitter followers after the show. On that subject, I hope you won’t mind me saying that it’s very hard to avoid offending a handful of Twitter followers to whom I can’t give the individual attention and dialogue they seem to need. It does take the fun out of using Twitter. I’d love to continue using it, as I do enjoy it most of the time, and I hope those few will take a deep breath and use Twitter in the casual spirit it’s best enjoyed in. Thank you all for the enthusiastic tweets after the shows – they make lovely reading and are very much appreciated. In particular I’m very grateful that you’re all good enough not to tweet any spoilers: the show is so much better when you don’t know what’s coming.

Tomorrow we’re off to Bristol, which feels like my spiritual home. To play the Hippodrome, where I queued so many nights as a student, alone, to watch touring opera companies… it’s such a delight. I shall be touring old haunts tomorrow and enjoying myself immensely.

I await my gorgeous crew for soup and booze, and then it’s an early start. I’ve just had a pizza that I should have probably avoided. And my ludicrously fancy suite has a bathtub in the front room – imagine that! To think that Amy probably sat in it, enjoying a glass of wine and watching telly.

Getting very tired. Ner-night, trust you’re all splendid.



Sat having a late breakfast at a brilliantly unaccommodating hotel near Buxton. Last night we arrived back after the show for our normal hotel drink and to enjoy a bit of left-over birthday cake, to be told that for health and safety reasons, we could not consume birthday cake downstairs as a group. Neither, for the same reasons, could we order sandwiches. The very stern lady at reception did, however, concede that she ‘understood the high’ that we were experiencing as ‘theatre types’. Fantastic.

Buxton last night was immense fun, and it’s always a beautiful place to explore. I visited Scriveners Bookshop, one of my touring highlights any year we pass this way, and then had weak twee tea in a little cafe, until I had to be at the Opera House. I was happy with the show, and at one point I found myself up in the balcony during the second half. A lovely group came with a coat for Coops made out of Roast Beef Monster Munch packets, which continue to be provided by audience members competing for the prize of who-brings-the-most for Coops and Iain. As ever, entries can be left at stage door, along with your contact details, before the show. Unsure if the coat consisted of the largest number of packets, but it was certainly the most impressive configuration.

One of the delights of a touring show such as this is the ability to introduce little shifts and changes. Last night we discussed a small change to something in the first half which will be immense fun to try out. Went to sleep and awoke considering possibilities.

Right – a tasty breakfast to mitigate the amusing unhelpfulness of last night. Must now do a phone interview to promote a couple of theatres for later in the run: Ipswich and Hull, I believe. Splendid.