Broken Biscuits No.12.

BB12, despite stealing every strand of my will to live from my trembling, broken body, was truly magnificent: anyone there will back me up on this. A three night extravaganza in one of the coolest spots in Hove as part of Brighton Fringe, with every act at the top of their game and the loveliest, most supportive audience we could possibly have wished for. I’m going to go all Gwyneth Paltrow on you in a minute so perhaps it’s best to give you a rundown before I do:

Joe Duggan kicked it all off, with his inimitable word-perfect prose that charmed and challenged the room in equal measures. You could have heard a pin drop as he spoke. Quite, quite extraordinary.

Julitha Ryan‘s gut-wrenching piano ballads were so moving, heartfelt and beautifully performed, the hairs are still standing upright on my arms as I type this. Watch the video below. Then watch it again. You’ll thank me.

Thanks to the eternal gift of his surname, Elvis Parsley was once again in the building. And he owned that crowd for the first time in forty years, yesiree. Don’t think I’ve seen a reincarnated star of yesteryear bring the roof down quite like that, well, ever. The King was on fire, and the rest of us were wet with laughter.

That Jenny Vegas has upped her game, I can tell you. With puppets re-enacting domestic abuse that still managed to be hilarious, and a torch song nicked and adapted from Andrew Lloyd Webber that was genuinely heartbreaking. Don’t let on though, she’s handful enough as it is.

Vivienne Westnorwood continued her upward trajectory to be the maddest punk rock grandmother on the planet. No one knew quite what to make of her (herself included), until she hollered, howled and screeched her way into everyone’s hearts via the medium of song and general weirdness. I’ll have what she’s having, please.

Headbackbob were sublime. All Weimar cabaret meets gypsy punk, headed up by Nadia Strahan whose stunning voice can knock small birds out of the trees at fifty paces. Everyone was on their feet and loving every second; the perfect way to round off an evening.

Daniel Laidler‘s Windy’s Farm had its best reception yet. I swear there were people on the verge of tears by the end, and quite vocal with it. Danny boy, we need some more, your public demands it!

A small mention for Idle Eye, I suppose. Although it appears he gave it some welly, no one’s entirely sure what he’s so livid about. All that shouting will only knock up his blood pressure, bless him. We’re thinking a whale music cassette and some tantric sex might do the trick; just saying.

Hope you enjoy the videos. Next up is Brighton Fringe‘s The Warren on 31st May, I’ll be coming atcha for this one ‘cos it’s massive. But first, I need a long waz and a sleep x

Idle Eye 195 : The Fringe Benefits

There is a fulcrum at which most rational human beings hit the flashpoint of incandescent rage. For some, it can be relatively insignificant: a cooker ring fails to ignite on cue/the washing machine was set to tepid for those difficult whites/an old friend has posted another holiday selfie when you’re hoiking out hair from the shower basin and wondering if you’ll ever see the sun again. But for the rest of us, the idiocy of others can be more than enough to tip you over the edge; when you become a deranged Michael Douglas in Falling Down; when you would exchange your hospital bed (if such things still exist) for a Kalashnikov and stumble out into the street, high on budget laxatives, in order to spew your disgust onto and into an unsuspecting public. At which point you would turn the muzzle, still white-hot and smoking, thrust it down the back of your throat until you are at the point of gagging, and wait for the lights to go out. Some things just do this to you.

Today, Pippa Middleton got married to some bloke I’ve never heard of. The news appeared on my Facebook feed and then, as I was mentally haemorrhaging, Radio Four announced it as the “society event of the year”. Now, it so happens I’ve been using R4 as a kind of aural sedative for some time now: not because I’m particularly riveted by a lot of the content, but because the alternatives are beyond puerile and at least they have the faint gift of being able to string a sentence together. So when that statement was aired, it was the equivalent of your mother pissing into your school lunchbox (when you’d specifically included avocado). I know some of you like that kind of thing but it’s really not my bag.

I went back to the computer and this chinless Herbert was coming at me from all sides, like in Batman when The Joker manifests himself on every platform that existed in 1960s fiction. Said hedge person had clearly muscled in on that most saleable of assets, a next-to-royal derrière with next-to-nothing between the ears, and was touting his investment in the only way he knew how: via his chums in the media. Oh yes, all sorts were there to give it the requisite gravitas: tennis ace Roger Federer, someone off Made in Chelsea, a princess or two and the fetid saliva trail of the Mail and the Telegraph. And it looks like it was a wonderful day for all concerned: my bosoms were bursting with British pride.

I mention this because I’m tentatively learning to manage my anger levels. By ejaculating my disdain onto the page, I, by default, become a better, more well-rounded individual that you’d feel comfortable curling up alongside of an evening. Everyone needs a valve, right? You get me? Good. Now fuck off and make me a cup of tea.

Broken Biscuits No.12.

Last minute heads up for this. If you’ve been on the social you’ll already know, but I’ve been pulled in more directions than an Irish road sign of late and to be perfectly frank, I forgot. However, we are where we are and these will be magnificent: three warm-ups at The Bee’s Mouth in Hove as part of Brighton Fringe 2017 before we hit The Warren on May 31st – more on which to follow.

For these shows, we’ve pulled in a combo of greatest hits, local heroes and blinding talent; because you’re worth it. It’s quite a spur having the luxury of time to try stuff out, alongside luminaries in their own fields who don’t, so we’ve decided to keep the whole flavour verging on the chaotic. Anything could (and probably will) happen, and the only vague certainty we can offer at present is the daily line-up:

Thurs 11th May – Joe Duggan/Julitha Ryan/Idle Eye/Jenny Vegas. With JV and IE as compere(s)

Fri 12th May – Vivienne Westnorwood/Julitha Ryan/Idle Eye/Jenny Vegas. With Elvis Parsley as compere

Sat 13th May – Elvis Parsley/Headbackbob/Idle Eye/Jenny Vegas. With Vivienne Westnorwood as compere

All shows will hopefully include Donald Ross Skinner’s Idle Eye Disco and Dan Laidler’s Windy’s Farm animations. But who knows? You might get your very own Hoseasons rep whisking you off to a self-catering Shangri-La in Kent. Or a mindless bloodbath of existential angst. That’s the beauty of a Pay What You Can gig – we call the shots, and you can’t say you weren’t warned. My advice would be to come along to all three with some personal idemnity in place. That way, we’re all covered x

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Pizza Flyer Delivery Boy

In December 2014, I wrote a short piece about a pizza junk mail delivery boy which was deliberately out of character with my other material. I was working at the computer, staring vacantly out of the window when one of these guys rocked up outside, looking as if he wanted the world to swallow him up whole. Alan Sillitoe’s Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner got into my head somehow, but I didn’t want a tale laden with the kind of pathos I didn’t feel qualified to write about; so I played a straight bat. When the narrator rejects outright a small moment of tenderness because he is preconditioned to expect the worst, there’s no fanfare: it’s just how it is. And I like that.

It was the last story of forty in Amateur of Life and Death. I was unashamedly channelling The Fast Show‘s Rowley Birkin QC, when his catchphrase “I’m afraid I was very, very drunk” is turned on its head because it isn’t funny. It catches your breath, and still to this day remains one of my favourite moments of character comedy writing. My cousin Mark Dicey illustrated it beautifully (see above), but I knew I wasn’t finished with it yet. I tentatively introduced it into the Broken Biscuits live set recently, with an accompanying urban landscape soundtrack recorded by Donald Ross Skinner in the 90s. But it needed something more to set it apart from the other posts, so I made it into a film.

Franck Alba’s haunting soundtrack, recorded in his bedroom in a matter of hours, is just perfect; and Alan Maclean’s wildly expressive features could not have been better for the ‘old geezer’. With a bit of help from one of my dearest friends Julitha Ryan, the whole thing was conceived, shot and edited in Crystal Palace over three days, and is now ready to be outed at Brighton Fringe next week. Hope you like it x

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