Penn & Teller in London!

(Picture by local artist)

Advance warning. You heard it here first. Do not, repeat DO NOT miss out on this one. They very rarely come to London, and they’re the best magic show in the world. Penn & Teller – the eternally cool bad-boys of magic – are rocking the Hammersmith Apollo from 14-17 July. Just a few nights, and it will pack right out. I saw it in Vegas a few years ago with Andy and Coops and we found ourselves gasping out loud and utterly mesmerised. It’s ingenious, funny, heartbreaking and provocative, and if there was ever a must-see in the world of magic, this is it.

The link is here – tickets go on sale on Friday.

Get in there quick, and if you find it sold out, keep trying for returns.


Miltonian Keynes

After the raucous delights of Northern audiences, it was down South to a very different sort of place. Again, the energy of the city was reflected in the audience, which is always so interesting: this time quiet and attentive, quite different from the previous nights. I spoke about this with a lovely couple who come to see the show a lot, back at the hotel over post-show booze and soup. The lady, a resident of Milton Keynes, insightfully pointed out that as a new town, MK has no real sense of community, no generation of people having grown up there, and correspondingly there was no sense of the audience as a solid, living entity in the same way there is in, say, Sunderland or Edinburgh where we had recently played. Instead, I felt, the MK crowd were (thankfully) polite and awaited their cues from me: a ‘vertical’ line of communication with little happening between them: little ‘horizontally’, as it were.

Acoustically the room held back a lot of the reactions too, so all in all the first night was a slight culture shock. The second night, as happens, felt warmer (in part, it was, and in part I had got used to the room). The nights were a pleasure to play, and volunteers were bright and fun. I have though been lulled into enjoying attentive and courteous audiences: tonight I am in Belfast, where once again there is a rich and powerful sense of community (or perhaps more strictly, communities), and much more tendency to heckle (not that I get much of that). Doubtless I’ll have a little shock again, and then tomorrow I shall ride it with ease.

I have spent the afternoon with a couple of talented friends from the mentalism world (Belfast’s David Meade and Toronto’s Thomas Baxter), chatting in part about some of the magnificently awful ways the medium Doris Stokes would garner information about her audience. Friendships with some of her touring party yielded some juicy secrets.

I must leave for the Waterfront. The crew have been there all day putting up the show in this massive concert hall: perhaps not aesthetically the best environment for the show, but a great room and a lovely in-house crew. If you’re coming tonight, I can’t wait to see you.



Three lovely nights in Sunderland. Great audiences and a lovely theatre. Thank you very much if you were there. After the fun with the broken mic and a cut finger the first night, the other two went pretty smoothly.

We stayed in the Newcastle Malmaison, which was just fantastic. A bottle of champagne and a concerned letter were awaiting me from the Edinburgh management which had come across the blog. That was very sweet of them, and made me feel a bit guilty.

One of the many delights of the Newcastle hotel came in the form of an unnamed Martini. I sometimes like to request a chocolate martini, asking the barpersonage to make whatever he or she feels fits that term. Sometimes you get clear, subtle versions; sometimes thick gloopy brown lovelinesses. The fun is never knowing what you’ll get. You might like to try it. The talented and splendid Aoife brought back three wildly different versions which we all tried after our late soup and sandwiches. All three amazing. We decided on the brown version, and set about discussing names for the cocktail. I suggested a ‘Brown Maltini’, liking the name of a drink named after me. Understandably, the ‘Brown’ bit felt a little cloacal for a drink name. We couldn’t decide, so I suggested that I might open it up to my bright and enlightened blog followers to suggest a name.
The picture attached shows Aoife with the drink (after I had quoffed half of it), and she has kindly allowed me to share the recipe:

Aoife’s As-Yet-Unnamed-Martini
1 half (ah, may be one-and-a-half) shot Remy Martin
1 half (hmm, ditto) shot Kahlua
1 half (surely must mean just half) shot creme de cacao

Garnish with choc powder.
Shake with ice and strain into martini glass.

Very tasty. Not a true Martini of course, of which I am very fond too, but a great, if outwardly girly, treat at the end of a long night.

If you have any suggestions for a name, please email; you have about a week to bother them. No guarantees that any of the suggestions will make the menu, as it may have just been one of those 1am conversations that sounded like a good idea at the time. Rather like that small business you were going to start up with a friend. But they’re happy to take suggestions, and they’re the loveliest people.

Thank you, Newcastle Mal. Sting was staying there as well, apparently, which is pretty damn exciting in my book.

We’re now in Milton Keynes and I have my face in a big steam inhaler. Just had the 30 min call. Must dash.

PS I realised that in the blog about Bradford, when I said that in previous years ‘Dublin Olympia kept their bar open too’, it sounded like I was saying ‘as well as Bradford’. Poor and ambiguous wordage on my part, and apologies to St George’s Hall for not checking and re-wording. Meant only that Dublin left the bar open (understandable for what is really a music venue) as well as had people getting up to use the loo, which I had just been talking about. In fact the two go hand in hand…
Dublin will be extra fun this year anyway: a spanking new Grand Canal theatre we’re all eager to see. Ta-ta.

Bradford and Sunderland’s First Night

Bradford boasts one of the finest Waterstones in the whole U of K, and it was a treat to tuck myself right up inside it for a hot choccy and a bally good read. St George’s Hall is a lovely, cramped and creaky old place, but sadly not quite suitable for the show, which looked far from its best. (Many of the important bits and pieces the theatre were supposed to provide were not in place, so I imagine we may switch venues next time we play Bradford).

The audience was definitely not a theatre-savvy one (plenty of getting up to go to the loo and so on), so I caught myself glaring uncharitably at some offenders who were shattering the atmosphere for the audience at the wrong moments by noisily getting up and squeezing past people in their row. Such things don’t affect me on stage, but it’s infuriating to put all the work into the show and then have a few people spoil it for large blocks of the audience by treating it like casual TV watching. You have my permission to throw your drinks at these people if they annoy you. Rant over.

Despite this gripe, the shows were fun. It feels like a very intimate venue and everything went well enough. The audiences were comparatively quiet but I enjoyed both nights.

Went to see Clash of the Titans on the second day, which, despite its infuriating confusion of mythologies (Arabic Djinns? In Ancient Greece?), and re-envisioning Acrisius as Perseus’ father (to presumably help work in the now exhausted Hollywood father/son reconciliation cliché), I enjoyed a little more than Jennie and Iain, who are deeply devoted to the original. Performances not great, but it feels affectionately done and there are some fun sequences to keep it from dragging. For whatever my thoughts are worth on the subject: which is next to nothing.

The huge Sunderland Empire gave us a great first night: still a few boisterous and incontinent audience members but a fun show. It’s a tall place: the people up in the balcony must have been suffering from all sorts of vertiginous nasal hemorrhaging. My microphone died on me and Coops came out to fix me up with a new one, while the audience watched, presumably convinced it was part of the show for some reason. Apologies to any of you for that. Keeps us all on our toes, though.

About to head off for tonight’s extravaganza. What japes. If you’re coming, have a little wee first. Cos we’re now not letting you back in if you go out…



Oh Em Gee. What a wonderful two nights. After being warned that Edinburgh audiences would be tough (apparently due to a weariness and over-seasoned-ness following so many fine fringe performers), we had the most overwhelmingly enthusiastic response of any venue. The 3008-strong sold out Playhouse let rip both nights when I walked out and didn’t stop until after their fantastically appreciative and immediate leaping-to-feet-twice response at the end. Many thanks, we were all on a real high because of you lot.

I spent most of the time with the glorious parapsychology duo Richard Wiseman and Caroline Watt, discussing ghosties and exploring the city. And what a stunner it is. A personal highlight was visiting the Camera Obscura up by the castle: well well worth a visit and the finest I’ve seen.

Our hotel was a bit of a downer: Edinburgh lets the side royally down on the normally glorious MalMaison front. ‘Poor Diddums’, I hear you protest. ‘Was the poor telly-welly star not looked after by the hotelsy-welsy? Did he not get the right champagney-wagney in his roomikins?’

Well, it IS a poor sister of the other MalMaisons (no aircon, the wifi is broken and no-one seems arsed to fix it), but no matter there. All that matters is friendliness. We had come from the Roslin in Southend, which is very modest in comparison to the purple sumptuousness of a MalMaison, but was so extraordinarily welcoming throughout. This is such a treat, and trumps such meaningless peripherals as fancy decor. The MalMaison chain is always so friendly too: Liverpool, for example and not surprisingly, boasts probably the most friendly of the chain. In Edinburgh, aside from the few local bar and restaurant staff, the attitude was uniformly sterile. First night after-show conversation at reception:

(me): Hello, can we have a bite from the night menu in the bar?
(reception guy, East-European accent): No, only in your rooms.
(me): Ah, do you have some room where we can eat together? We stay in a lot of MalMaisons and they always pop us in a side-room when they can’t serve in the bar.
(him): No.
(me): Do you have a little meeting room? Normally we’d sit in a meeting room if there wasn’t anywhere else, just to have a bite.
(him): We have a meeting room but no, we won’t do this.
(me): Brilliant, thank you.

And so on. Rather like our similar experience in Buxton, it’s a real shame how all the poshness and carpeted walls and silly tall chairs in the world mean nothing when some member of staff can’t just be nice. I remember fondly the Wolverhampton Novotel last year: a fairly grim hotel by the normal standards, but made wonderful by the most friendly and helpful staff. Thank you, any of the lovely men and ladies who have made our hotel stays so pleasant.

The big plus of staying at the MalMaison, though, was discovering Fishers at Leith, the Edinburgh fish restaurant and all-round institution, which was right next to the hotel. You simply must get your fine, shapely arses down there if you’re unfamiliar. Or familiar. My dear sweet non-existent Supreme Being. Oh. Oh oh oh. Fish soup? Think you’ve had fish soup? Get OUT.

Get to Fishers, have soup, the seabass, have any of it; go see Luke or Eddie and tell them I sent you. And the friendliest bunch! So delightful, in fact, that we invited them to the show and I ended up drinking a fine Barolo back at Eddie’s girlfriend’s friend Fiona’s flat after the show with their gang… a long story. Much fun.

We have arisen too early after a late night to drive to Bradford. The snow on these A-roads is fantastic. But we’re tired. If we don’t make it, it’s because Coops fell asleep at the wheel.
Fingers crossed.

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