Boo! Hiss!

Well, the comedy Festival seems to have been a great success so congratulations to all concerned! The programme was handsomely produced and packed with stuff from the dire to the delectable, from a grand charity ball at the Pump room to Sunday roast and a comic to follow at Widcombe Social Club.

For my part, I helped produce the fun-packed Natural Theatre big red bus outings on which the audience managed to get round town despite copious doses of vino, taking in all manner of mad performance on the way.

The conductor on the bus was none other than grumpy old man Arthur Smith. Far from being grumpy, he made the jolliest of hosts, even though he did get left behind at one point when he slipped off to buy some fags at Sainsbury’s Local. We even got to see his rather impressive underpants modelled on guess which part of the anatomy of Michelangelo’s David.

Over thirty actors, drivers, pourers, waiters, wine pourers and crossing patrollers were involved, all of whom needed split second timing to be in the right place doing the right thing as the bus hove into view. A network of cars and crew buses was operating unseen in the background with people having to underdress several character costume changes. For example, one fellow had to transform himself from a chubby garden gnome into a willowy Quentin Crisp look-alike in under five minutes in the back of a fast-moving van!

It was ridiculously frantic, but to the audience it appeared seamless. But that’s the magic of theatre. The actors love to surprise people and the audience love the complicity of seeing unsuspecting passers by being hauled into the action.

All in all, it was a typical Natural Theatre event…completely bonkers but backed up by meticulous planning and an eye for detail. But this time it was tinged with a certain anxiousness brought on by the announcement a couple of days before that funding from the Arts Council would end in 2012, thus endangering the company’s future.

Now I know cuts are necessary and we aren’t an essential service like the National Health. But if there was any time that people needed a laugh, surely it’s now? After all, isn’t laughter supposed to be the best medicine?

Altogether now ‘Boo! Hiss!’

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