Some brief time off from the tour. We all hugged and wished each other excellent weekends, and then disappeared into our other lives for a few days to do laundry, lie in and snuggle with other halves. Friday morning I pottered about the place, noting with amusement the legacy of six weeks or however long on the road: I walked into a couple of things in my cluttered home, having forgotten they were there, and when talking to a friend about going to the theatre that night, kept calling it a ‘hotel’ (on tour one is for ever going from one to another, referring to one or the other; sometimes verbally confusing the two, in a way that sounds very daft when there are no hotels around of which to speak). Around lunchtime I was picked up for filming: I was part of a Kevin Bishop sketch where he was playing his character Darren Brown, my resentful and less successful twin brother. There’s a clip of the character in a different sketch here. I arrived at a delightful residential house that had been lent to Kevin’s crew as a set for the day, and after a few wides, mid-shots and close-ups, we had the sketch done and dusted. As a curious piece of trivia, you might like to note when you watch the sketch, that the house we were in belonged to a Christian family, and the bookshelves (although they probably won’t be caught on screen) were stock full of religious titles (such as Knowing God, which I imagined would be thicker), and there’s a Christian magazine on the table in front of us. None of that plays any role in the sketch, and neither was the magazine placed there by any of us, but if it amuses you to know that these two characters are sitting surrounded so densely by such things, then there we go. The sketch was very well written by, I believe, Nico Tatarowicz, so thank you Nico, and I hope I came some way to doing my part justice. It’s for the huge C4 comedy gala night, which is a live event at the 02 on March 30th, and which airs on TV on the evening of April 5th. So, as one twitterer pointed out, it’s a filmed piece for a live event which will be filmed: I hope that’s clear.
Friday evening I went to the always brilliant Menier Chocolate Factory to watch and hear Hannah Waddingham – multi-award winning musical star, outstanding singer, actress and I imagine all-round Gay Man’s Best Friend – melt and excite us with her excellent, excellent work. She possesses an incredible range: able to sing Nina Simone as Simone would, and then switch to her devastating Send In the Clowns, via Thriller and any number of madly inspired songs (including an awesome rendition of Judas’ belter Heaven On Their Minds from Jesus Christ Superstar). Her CD is coming out soon, and if you’ve missed her show-stopping performances in London (I first saw her as the Lady in the Lake in Spamalot), then this will be a great way of at least hearing her work. Her sell-out run at the Chocolate Factory is now over, but hopefully she’ll return, or repeat elsewhere.
Saturday, after a trip to the cinema, I took a group for a fantastic but too-quickly-bolted-down dinner at the River Cafe and then went on to see my co-creator Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s Ghost Stories at the nearby Lyric Hammersmith. The atmosphere in the auditorium is electric and it’s a fun, sharp show; scary and well-performed. Definitely worth seeing, particularly if you’re a horror fan. It plays until 17th April at that theatre but I can only imagine will see plenty of life beyond that.
Sunday I started a new painting: a new 5′ x 5′ Judi Dench, and part of a new, ‘straight portrait’ route I’m taking. Sadly I won’t get to finish it for a month or so until I’m back in town. In the early evening we headed off to the Olivier Awards for a genuinely fun night. Jodie Prenger as Nancy (from Oliver!) and Hannah Waddingham (twice in one weekend!) outshone, In My Humble Opinion, some great performers taking the stage that night to sing in-between the handing out of awards. The Mountaintop and Spring Awakening triumphed, and personal highlights were talking to Mark Rylance and his wife Claire (Mark won richly deserved Best Actor for Jerusalem), Jez Butterworth and Ian Rickson (writer and director of the same astonishing play, now on at the Apollo), and meeting Tim Whitnall and the truly lovely Bob Golding, whose hugely acclaimed Morecambe rightly won Best Entertainment. I’m desperately hoping to catch it on tour – details are here.
Monday I painted until the last minute and then nearly missed my train to Leicester, for last night’s first performance at the De Montfort Hall. I was, as tends to happen after a few days off, a little scatty and not quite as on form as I would have liked, but it was nonetheless a fun night. My voice was a little croaky and I found myself reaching for the water more often than normal. It’ll take a night or two to warm the old voice back up again. I had a drink afterwards with a friend who is an art teacher at a local school, and whose pupils seemed to be constituting most of the volunteers on stage. I’m now sat in a very pleasant, empty hotel lounge, feet up; bemused that I have more time to relax when on tour, than I do in the breaks. But I must get on with m’book editing, which is happening piecemeal in lounges like this across the country.
Right, onwards and upwards.