Broken Biscuits No.11.

Before I bang on about the night, let it be said that Yellow Arch Studios is a stunning venue right in the heart of Sheffield and it’s the bee’s bum; for performers and audience alike. Thanks to Ali Heath Cook for letting us do our thing and for the superb photos; to Sam, who made it all sound just so; to Nick and Spencer for helping us way beyond the call of duty and to all the staff: you made it a joy.

A little while back, Kate Tym suggested that my compering skills were, how shall we say, somewhat below par. She was totally wrong: they were shocking. Since then, we’ve had in a plethora of artists who really know how to work the house – Kate herself, Callum Hughes, Tim Suturist and this time around, the mighty Maynard Flip Flap. Blending street theatre flair with effortless authority, we knew we were in safe hands throughout. And if anyone thinks that being an MC is just a fill-in, then there’s the door: it’s a skill beyond language.

Billy Button is a multi-layered beast. His failed showman act is a hoot at one level, but then the pathos kicks in and we’re left with the kind of high usually reserved for Class A’s or extreme sports. It was hard choosing the right excerpt from his set, but Somebody kinda does the trick. Watch it a few times and I defy anyone to not melt. Billy, you are a hero.

Jenny Lockyer totally nailed it. She must have been at the front of the queue when they doled out talent: that voice, that guitar and boy, is she funny. Enjoy the moment she stops in her tracks when the audience fails to pick up the refrain; too good. And you could be forgiven for believing Bacharach and David wrote Magic Moments for her and her alone. Wonderful stuff.

Jenny Vegas managed to get her noggin into two Sheffield newspapers and bag a BBC radio interview for this one. She is fast becoming a force of nature, spurred on by unswerving self-belief, Lambrini spritzers and the bedrock of her manager Dougie; who runs a tight ship from his portakabin near Wombwell. God knows what we’ll do if her trajectory of fame continues – you should have seen her bloody rider!

Dan Laidler‘s Windy’s Farm made a welcome return to the North. No matter how many times we run it, people can’t help falling for him. And he’s a windmill, FFS! If only I’d known this in my twenties. Idle Eye managed to squeeze out a urine-themed set with the help of a couple of bewildered guests. Perhaps he thinks sixth form humour is clever and post-modern, but we’ve heard it all before and then we grew up. Good luck to him, though: you can’t kick a man when he’s down, can you?

Next up it’s Brighton Fringe! Three nights at The Bee’s Mouth (11-13 May) to try out material and showcase a few new friends, and then the big bertha finale at The Warren‘s Main House on 31st May. There’ll be event pages, posters, flyers and all sorts coming soon, but for now put these in your diaries. Thank you x

Idle Eye 194 : The Guzzler

As I was straining the greens before leaving work this afternoon, it occurred to me that an actual person invented those little rubber mats that sit awkwardly in the belly of their white porcelain hosts. Someone with the nous to recognise the perils of splashback, and the business acumen to get them into pretty much every tinklehaus in the country. So I tried to imagine taking the initial concept to pitch. Like you do:

Institute of Industrial Design:  Thanks for coming in. How can we help you?

Me:  I’ve invented something very small and simple that will change life as we know it.

IID:  Oh good. What precisely is it?

Me:  It’s a little rubber mat that stops piss flying up into your face.

IID:  Sorry, we didn’t quite catch that.

Me:  A rubber mat. That stops piss flying up into your face. There’s a massive gap in the market.

IID:  A gap in the market, you say? For the prevention of flying piss?

Me:  Yes. It’s an age-old problem.

IID:  That has not once been flagged up. Until today.

Me:  Just because no one’s flagged it up doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Try telling that to Apple.

IID:  Except Apple almost singlehandedly advanced computer technology, hardware aesthetics and consumer demand beyond anything previously imagined. Are you seriously suggesting you can do something similar with the toilet?

Me:  Correct. There will come a time when we cannot envisage life without them. Like cat’s eyes. And the vacuum cleaner. Have some faith.

IID:  And does your little mat have a name?

Me:  Not yet – I’m just the ideas guy. But I’m thinking it could be a bit of fun; something to take their minds off it.

IID:  Off what, exactly?

Me:  That they’re basically spraying piss all over the place.

IID:  Fun doesn’t quite spring to mind.

Me:  Of course it does! How about “The Guzzler – putting the fun back into functional”. See? It’s even got its own strapline.

IID:  The Guzzler?

Me:  Why not? Does what it says on the tin. And it alludes to the piss ending up inside The Guzzler and not all over the end user; without making a huge song and dance about it.

IID:  Is this your first business venture, by any chance?

Me:  I’ve had heaps of ideas. But this is the one I’ve been most excited about.

IID:  Of course. And you’ve told no one else about it?

Me:  No one at all. Intellectual property and all that. I wasn’t born yesterday.

IID:  Splendid! Could you leave a copy with us? And help yourself to a Malteser on the way out, we’ll be in touch.

And that would have been it. Followed by unimaginable wealth, admiration from my peers and a lifestyle lesser mortals can only dream of. All of this from a bit of rubber with a few holes in it. So reach for the stars, my friends. Just don’t let on to Durex…

Idle Eye 193 : The Single Spies

I’ve become obsessed with Tristram Shandy of late. That entire notion of an unreliable narrator and the layering of truths to create another, even more unlikely than the sum of its parts, appeals to me enormously right now. There is good reason for this: for too long, being the snivelling coward that I am, I have swerved and dodged the slings and arrows hurled at me by those who seek to undermine my work and beyond. And, to flip the idiom to suit my purposes, if only they came in battalions! For then it would be clear – the masses have spoken and they all think I’m an arse. At which point I could sneak off, lick my wounds and start again.

But they don’t. No, they come as friends, as lovers, as colleagues. They come individually, neatly spaced and lightly armed. Their slight is seemingly insignificant, rarely an assault. Their motivation is often unclear, even to themselves, but calculated nonetheless. Yet the cumulative effect is devastating. They come in disguise – wolves in sheep’s clothing – and like a cancer, once they’re in they set to work, which I mostly exercise for them. For their design is to sow the seeds of self-doubt rather than take a scythe to the results. And thereby I become the architect of my own destruction, and the finger of blame has no one to point at other than myself. Good, innit?

So the time has come to hit back, however uncomfortable that may be (I’m a liar, not a fighter). Stasis is tantamount to an admission of guilt and weakness, so clearly no longer an option. I will draw my line in the sand and no longer shall they cross it. And to those of you I will lose in the process, I say this:

‘I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I thank you. Now fuck off.’

Do you know why? Because it’s not straightforward, is it? Read the second paragraph again with the presupposition that it is written by someone suffering from acute paranoia. See? Changes everything. But if I bring it up myself, perhaps you will salute my honesty and self-awareness, and be more inclined to side with me if it ever came to it. It’s a ruse. One chicane inside another. Although, in this particular case, it’s also a cry for help. Somewhere in all of the above, the narrative gets lost in the exposure of the framework. But by revealing a small portion of author vulnerability, I intend to cement from you a loyalty of sorts.

And so, gentle reader, I leave you with this: which layer suits you best? Which section of this woven tapestry will you believe, if any? Let us not forget I am still in character and I have an objective. But behind that character lies the reason to create him in the first place, trustworthy or otherwise. And the absolute truth is for you to decide.

Broken Biscuits No.10.

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We love Antenna. Clearly, as we’ve done four (count ’em) shows there now and there’s plenty more to come. As we had but an hour to transform the room, things were a little (lot) hectic but we got there somehow and it was packed to the rafters. Seriously, it was. Thanks to everyone who pitched in, bought merch, turned up on another vile weather day, and drank the bar dry. Palace, you did us proud!

Our magnificent compere Tim Suturist was drier than a manzanilla sherry in the desert; in direct contrast to the elements outside. And Jenny Vegas treated everyone to their own personal Valentine Lovescope; in direct contrast to her own car crash of a love life. How she got conned into giving a Boyzone tribute act one is anyone’s guess. Except hers. The lady protests too much, methinks.

Awanyu were nothing short of extraordinary. As if gossamer vocals that soared, swooped and almost shattered over a beautifully subtle acoustic wash weren’t enough, our man certainly knew how to make an entrance. The lamé cape and feathered headdress, removed to a live Eric Satie intro, will not be forgotten in a hurry. Think a male Kate Bush, or Antony & the Johnsons gatecrashing Bowie’s theatre period and you’ll still be miles off.

How to describe the sublimely batty Vivienne Westnorwood? Perhaps, in keeping with the headdress theme, that she rocked up in one fashioned COMPLETELY FROM JAMMY DODGERS!!! Or that she’s so livid about getting on a bit, she managed to punk up the proverbial menopause with a banjo that begged to hold a note. Or that… it really doesn’t matter: this is one kooky lady that had the audience in stitches and is probably still bewildered by the whole thing. Vivienne, we salute you!

As is customary, a mention should be given to Idle Eye. Bless him, he did try to keep up, and some new material was aired. But the real stars of his pitifully short set were his guests – Callum Hughes and Jenny Vegas – who breathed a little life into the twitching carcass of his world view. There is a crowdfunder doing the rounds to send him on a holiday: let’s make it a long one.

There’s going to be a little breather until BB11 in April; to write, to do admin and maybe even go away for a few days. Cabin fever and burnout are the deciding factors, coupled with an ennui that will not heel: I don’t make the rules. Finally, a word out to Mr Donald Ross Skinner. Sadly, he couldn’t be with us for personal reasons and he was sorely missed. Don, hang in there buddy – we miss you, we love you and our thoughts are with you right now xx

Idle Eye 192 : The Grate Sex Guide

Traditionally, I tend to shy away from comment on sensational media stories. They’re usually clickbait, or cooked up from deep within the well of fake news, tailored to have us frothing at the gills over piffle we’ll have forgotten about long before they’ve come up with the next lot. No no no. I subscribe to a couple of respectable broadsheets, which conveniently afford me the illusion that I can filter out any such dross, arm myself with a succinct, accurate world view and lie guilt-free in a bed of my own smugness. For which I make no apology.

Occasionally though, something slips through the net. And today it concerned a young man from Romford, Essex who tried to have sex with a drain cover in the middle of his street. Initially, my curiosity was piqued by the use of the word ‘romp’, as I wrestled with the mental image of a Bacchanalian tryst ‘twixt man and wrought iron, with any neighbouring traffic juddering to a halt in front of the star-crossed lovers. But then I considered the trajectory of the event: there must have been a fulcrum point at which 33-year-old Florin Grosu (sic) was so swollen with lust for his intended, asking it back to his place was totally off the map. Perhaps the grate had gotten coquettish? Or that, in a blaze of white-hot alpha masculinity, our Florin had rushed towards the object of his desire and thrust himself upon it. Which spawned the obvious leading question: how?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been in a first date scenario, but from what I remember and in all fairness, it can be tricky navigating that initial moment of consent. But when he knew for certain he had a green light and his trousers were ankle-bound, the options available to young Florin became multifold. Which must have been perplexing in the extreme to someone in a presumably altered state, and to whom time was of the essence. Now, I’ve seen stock shots of your average drain cover and, to be blunt, there are approximately twenty inlets. Twenty! So what was the poor boy to do? Select at random the most alluring, or systematically make his way through each one in turn until his manhood had been whittled to a shadow of its former self? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Then must have come the inevitable wave of post-coital self-loathing. When it was brutally evident that the bond between street hardware and human being is platonic for very good reason. But imagine, if you will, there was something more to it. That, after many years of thwarted forays into the quagmire of romance, Florin had finally found something of value and was expressing his gratitude in the only way he knew how. Not so funny now, eh Romford Recorder? Shame on you! For as they say: true love, like proper news, is a battlefield.

Broken Biscuits No.9.

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Another great night. And despite my phone bricking as we were setting up (meaning no one could get hold of me at all for soundcheck info et al), it just added to the wonderful jumble of mayhem that seems to characterise these shows. Almost predictably, Southern Rail robbed us of Joanna Neary (although she has kindly agreed to join us at the Brighton Fringe, more on that another time), and compere Kate Tym was stricken with a virus and held at bay in St Leonards. But we got through it! Here’s how:

With the mighty Mr B, of course! The voice (and banjolele) of reason in a sea of madness, his immaculate set, attire and bonhomie were a joy to behold, as we all knew they would be. And he played The Crack Song, which I will be grateful for until my dying day. We Need To Talk About Kanye was another killer: seek it out and love him forever. This is a gentleman of substance you cannot afford to miss.

With Lorraine Bowen. Her Casiotone-fuelled, endearingly confused mix of pop, fashion and laughter had the house eating out of her hand the minute she stepped on stage. The Crumble Lady herself gave us tunes to die for, moves to watch and learn, and low fidelity acumen to shame the new kids on the block. Seriously, we had a party like it was 1969 and we didn’t want it to stop. Now that’s showbiz!

With Jenny Vegas. Once again, she delivered a blazing set with less than 24 hours notice, this time treating us to a reading from her new book 39 Shades of Brown. Which is as fabulous as it sounds. And she crushed the rumour that she and I are…well, you know…with the most damning words her vocabulary could muster. In front of a live audience. Don’t mess with this lady, she tells it like it is.

With Idle Eye and guests. This time he put a bloody jacket on and looked halfway respectable, let down somewhat by three pairs of reading glasses worn simultaneously. If he learns his lines and comes up with some decent between post banter, it might be worth coming to see his offerings at some point in the future. You heard it here first.

With Joss Perring and Nick Hollywood. Who once again transformed the Komedia Studio into a magical den of light, vintage film and great music. It’s always special to watch this father/son combo at work, particularly when they’re made up to the nines and sporting attractive hats. And Callum Hughes, who stepped in as compere with minutes to spare and masterfully ruddered our kooky ship through the entire evening. And Dan Laidler‘s Windy, who is fast becoming the unsung hero of Broken Biscuits. Hola Windy!

Thank you, Komedia Brighton, that was fab. BB10 is back at Antenna Studios in Crystal Palace on Saturday 11th February. Yes, that soon! Info post comin’ atcha after this. And sleep and red wine. Over and out x

Idle Eye 191 : The Showgirl

It’s time to scotch a rumour, now that we’re safely ensconced inside a new year and you’re vaguely listening again. And, unlike the usual ephemera that does the rounds on the social (only to rapidly disappear up its own euphemism), this one concerns yours truly and the highly improbable premise that things have taken a turn for the better in my private life. Worse still, that it may involve a certain Jenny Vegas, who has been in my employ for a few months now and, to be perfectly honest, really not my type. This kind of hearsay is not only unhelpful, but also deeply unprofessional; to the point where I had to make an awkward call to Miss Vegas in person and make an complete tit of myself:

Me:  Jenny, can you talk?

Vegas:  That you, Dougie?

Me:  Er…no. It’s Idle Eye. From the Broken Biscuits shows.

Vegas:  Aw, hiya! Did ya have a fab Chrimbo?

Me:  Yes, thank you. It was most pleasant.

Vegas:  What you doing calling mi in’t middle of t’night?

Me:  It’s 10.15, Jenny…AM. And there’s something urgent I need to run past you.

Vegas:  Is it Hollyoaks?

Me:  No, not exactly. It’s a bit more delicate than that.

Vegas:  Gi us a clue then. An don’t tek all day.

Me:  I’ll come straight to the point. There are certain, how shall we say, insinuations flying about at the moment about you and me. Have you heard anything?

Vegas:  In…sin…yer wha?

Me:  Insinuations. People are talking.

Vegas:  Eh?

Me:  Look, this isn’t easy for me. But the word on the street is that we’re somehow…entwined.

Vegas:  I only ‘ad a few Lambrinis…an’ a whiskey chaser. I were holdin’ back!

Me:  We’re not talking alcohol, Jenny. This is the hard stuff.

Vegas: I don’t do that neither. Not since rehab.

Me:  Ok, I’ll spell it out. They’re saying you and I are a couple. Romantically. As in going out together. And you have my full…

Vegas:  Whose seyin’ that?

Me:  No one in particular. But you know how the rumour mill works.

Vegas:  Yew…an mesen?

Me:  That’s about the sum of it.

Vegas:  Are yer fookin ‘avin a laff?

Me:  Deadly serious, I’m afraid.

Vegas:  Well, Mr Eye! Altho’ I am a woman of great bewtay, talent an intelligence, not to mention a consummated professional, I don’ av time for owt like tha. An even if I did, I do have mi reputat…repit…image to think abaht, yer naw.

Me:  If it’s any conciliation, it was nothing to do with me.

Vegas:  That’s right, never is wi you blorks. Nah piss off, I’m busy…

And that was that. Whilst I’m no stranger to the odd rebuke, this was one of the oddest yet; particularly as I shall be working with Miss Vegas for the foreseeable future. But if you ask me, the lady protests too much. They usually do, the little minxes…