Tag Archives: One Man Star Wars

On Tour with One Man Star Wars

 

September and October have been pretty epic. I’ve recently come back from my fourth tour support with the Charles Ross and his ‘One Man Star Wars’ Show. Three weeks on the road, playing sixteen venues across the UK, it’s been as tiring as it has rewarding.

One of the biggest highlights was playing Salford Lowry Theatre to a full capacity crowd. Nice.

Bedford, Poole, Taunton, Eastbourne, Southsea, Alnwick

Day 20 – Bedford
We turn up at the civic theatre on time but it is locked. When we are let in by one the tech’s I take a look around and see a very old theatre looking the worse for wear. It does though come as a surprise that we will be one of the last (if not the last) production put on here, as everthing gets moved over the road to the new corn exchange venue. The staff are really nice, but it does feel a bit odd when the three of us are left alone in the old church hall style venue. If not somewhat of a safety hazard. Poking around the old theatre I reveals it’s age with overly officious signage, faded posters the 1920’s and a broken piano with all the guts and springs showing. I imagine the home guard meeting in here like in Dad’s Army. I wander in the town of Bedford which is uneventful but for purchasing this months Doctor Who magazine. We are given a rider! It is mostly cakes and crisps, which I munch on, ignoring the bananas. I think I’m the heaviest I’ve been since the beginning of the year. Healthy eating on tour eating is so hard, much harder than Edinburgh. The show is surprisingly good, like gang show entertainment.

Day 21 – Poole
Down to the South coast and Poole. I’m knackered and rock up into the dressing room of the lighthouse for a kip. In fact I kip for most of the day and don’t really see anything or anyone until showtime. If I see another sandwich I will shoot someone in the face with it. I don’t even remember the show.
On the way out of Poole we stop at a Tesco’s 24. Look at this shelf of cider. This is Tesco’s. It may look like an average selection of cider like any other Tescos’s, but it isn’t. You’d be surprised just how much the menu changes when you get near Somerset and it’s neighbouring counties. Thatchers gold in both bottles and cans, Sheppy’s Dabinet and three varieties of Cornish rattler, you’d be hard pushed to find those in the North West and North East in your average supermarket…and they’re all gorgeous.

Day 22 – Taunton
Into somerset proper where I get a large flaggon of Sheppy’s scrumpy that will hopefully make it all the way home to Manchester at the end of tour. In the car we listen to soundtracks from computer games, and I rabbit on about the Elder Scrolls RPG games until everyone is utterly bored, but at least I’m not banging on about Doctor Who anymore. Anything to stay awake at the wheel. I am amused by a shop called ‘world of bears’ but I don’t know why.
The show is good for me and great for Charlie, plenty of laughs. I find it hard work, but wouldn’t change it for the world. Five show’s left.

Day 23 – Eastbourne
Eastbourne is lovely. It’s Saturday (must hang on to what day it is) and the sun is shining, the sky is full of those guys on motorised parachute thingy’s whirling about all over the shop which looks really exciting. I wander through the main shopping parade where like Manchester they have a shopping centre called the arndale, and down to the sea.

The Devonshire Park Theatre is old and lovely and we have a top show, really enjoyable. The landlord of the venue pub next door gets us to sign the poster for the show and will put it with the others on his wall. It’s a thrill as I have so much affection all the British actors I see the names of on the walls. Awesome.
Our hotel is a small chain owned by John Malcovich the actor. It’s our intention to look for the seventh and a half floor and climb inside his head, but unfortunetly as we arrive the lift has been broken by a dozen topless drunk stags who have all tried to squeeze into it. They all come out laughing like idiots as they inconvenience all the other guests in the hotel. We carry our bags up three flights of stairs. I want to push them all into the sea. There is a picture of John Malcovich on the wall of the room, looking p***ed off. I think he knows.

Day 24 – Southsea
It’s quiet, not much is open and getting dinner is a chore as we go into the pub next to the Kings Theatre. Seeing someone eating a Sunday lunch I try to work out how they knew to order it being that there are no menus on the tables, and no specials board. On asking for a menu we get a single piece of A4 paper, with no mention of Sunday lunch on it. I go to the bar and ask if they do Sunday lunch. There’s is a noticeable pause before the girl replies ‘We do a Sunday roast?’ Bless. She brings a friend of over to help with the sentence ‘We’ve got Chicken, Beef or Pork, but no Chicken’. Charlie notices seating upstairs and tests them further. ‘Yes you can sit upstairs, but there’s no table service upstairs’ came the seemingly adequate reply until we realise the kitchen is upstairs and the serving waitresses have to go upstairs in order to fetch the food down.
We have time to kill as Erin goes in to prep the show, so me and Charlie visit the D-Day museum. I don’t know that I expected much, but it was a great display of vehicles and memorabilia, showing the preparation for operation Overlord and the sheer scale of the operation it’s hard to imagine. Impressive and really sobering.
The theatre is gorgeous, another ageing beauty. The show is great too, and after we to the Phoenix for a pint where I get uncharacteristically shirty, then calm down (I’m just tired). The walls are awesomely covered with signed photo’s and I get snap happy on pictures of Bernard Horsfall, David Yip, Sue Pollard, Tom O’Conner, Bernard Breslaw, Spike Milligan and the pub dog.

Day 25, 26 – Break & Alnwick
On the road for most of the day, from South coast to Northumberland six hours or so seeing nearly all of the A1/M1, deciding against the M18 connecting road just to be a purist. A nice meal where I eat some beetroot and cucumber, a chat to the wife, a pint and bed.
If you like books, Alnwick has an amazing second hand bookshop called Barter Books – it’s just huge. I’m not a big reader and I spent the best part of an hour in it instead of visiting the castle which is also huge. The town itself is quite small but the people are canny and you can feel the history here.

Truro, Scunthorpe, Barnsley

Day 11 – Truro
The Braintree show is hard work, easily my least pleasant of the tour so far and feels like going through the motions to get a response. After an overnight stop in Reading (the hotel room has a microwave – result!) we motor on to Truro. Truro seems to be pretty laid back as a place, the venue is nearly sold out and both me and Charlie have an awesome show. I meet up with a mate who moved down here a few years back, he helps my try and locate some proper scrumpy and we go in a pub which serves Cornish Rattler, one of my favorite beverages, but I can’t imbibe much before a show, curses.

 

Day 12 – Break
A big drive back to Manchester and a rest. I look forward to a kip in my own bed and a fuss of the cat, but instead fix the cupboard door in the kitchen that’s been bugging me for ages, then take out the bins, as all the people in our block haven’t bothered. Oh how bloody showbiz. I am too tired to be annoyed and drink myself to sleep in front of my computer.

Day 13 – Scunthorpe
Scunthorpe Plowright Theatre is sandwiched between the police station and the fire station, it’s small and old school and the staff are very jolly. Wandering around the place I don’t know if it’s me, the town, the weather or all three – but it’s down and dismal. Loads of Greggs and pound shops, maybe no more than anywhere else, but they stick out more today. I get fish and chips from the BHS cafe. The show is far mare than I expect it to be, the people are well up for it, but not always laughing where I expect.

Day 14 – Barnsley
The clouds part on the way to Glossop and we have a great scenic midday drive to Barnsley listening to Holst’s planet suite. Barnsley Civic theatre is a new theatre and art space, and the facilities are great. I feel really sluggish, and really need to push myself to eat healthily on the road. With some gagrbaldi biscuits and fruit from Morrisons I’m happy enough until showtime. It’s ‘hump day’, we are officially halfway through the tour.
From my dressing room on the third floor I can see some kids hiding behind the waterfall feature, on the front grassy area outoside the theatre. I take photos of them as they appear to take drigs, see me, then quickly dash over a wall.

Chesham, Norwich, Braintree

Day 7 – Chesham
The Ark show in Borehamwood went well, and then on to Chesham to the Elgiva theatre, it’s a pleasant place with a new coat of paint. Their panto posters adorn the backstage walls and I’m keen enough to spot that in 1998 the under-rated ex-Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner directed Aladdin – which wouldn’t be the first time. Erin discovers nearly all the techs at the venue are in a band, and after the show we catch the end of an open mike night.
We rock up at the B&B around midnight which is a large old bungalow on broomstick lane, Botley, and can see the owners aren’t best pleased even though we said we would be late. Charlie appeases them by telling the owner exactly how he wants his eggs in the morning. I like these old houses as they remind me of where my gran and grandad lived, sturdy old oak cabinets, dressing tables, with large oval mirrors, pictures on the walls of ships and rural cottages, Patterned wallpaper and a house proud sense of tidiness that has been there for years. The beds are soft and comfy and I’m asleep in minutes.

Day 8 & 9 – Norwich
The theatre in Peterborough has sadly closed it’s doors, we only found out days before, so two days in Norwich then, and to make up for it the prior show here at Norwich Playhouse is already sold out. On the way we stumble across the “World Famous Comfort Cafe” which appears to be a simple cafe services with a cunning name. Sitting drinking coffee and reading the paper is Wes Zaharuk, a great props comic, he’s killing time before heading to Norwich too to play Jongleurs.
Our accom for Norwich feels a bit harsh and seventies, but I’m happy for the room. A hotel & conference centre, the kind of place Reggie Perrin would have stayed before his breakdown, with a brushed silver control panel at the bedside like you’d see on an old ITC spy drama. ‎”Do I need anything to get on your WiFi?” I said to the receptionist, infering a password. “A computer” she said matter of factly, like I’m stupid. I could feel the words “secure connection?” on the tip of my tongue, but they didn’t come out. Upon trying it is a secure connection, in that their network does not let you on it.
The stay is made invaluably better by the arrival of wor lass, who has made the four hour trip from Manchester with some mates to see me on this, probably the only occasion I’m in one place long enough. This is where the showbiz lifestyle is hard, since the end of June we’ve only seen each other a handful of times. Simple pleasures like making my woman egg on toast for breakfast will have to wait till October. Sad face.
The Norwich show is awesome, a real high point so far, and the baer serves Aspalls cider too. I love it.

Day 10 – Braintree
Braintree may have been named after the wallnut tree’s which grow here and look a bit like brains, but that’s just one theory. I’m sick of sandwiches now, take a chance on a microwaveable ready meal hoping the venue has a microwave. Always a risk if they don’t as there may be no fridge either. We arrive at the venue, great room, great wifi, great staff but no microwave or kettle. So… No tea? NO TEA!!?? WTF!…. Yes tea. I have a new supply of evil Typhoo QT instant granules and they have a hot water station. With no water to boil, bag to squeeze or milk to pour I make the quickest cup of tea in the world ever, in 6 seconds. I mourn my microwavable curry as the sealed black plastic tray slowly expands in the warmth and break out the instant mash for lunch instead.

Northampton, Didcot, Great Torrington, Borehamwood

Day 2 – Northampton
Having been in Northampton once already for a radio appointment we’re back again. It’s only day two and I have spent most of it sleeping. The theatre is massive, and the crowd is too, it’s a cracking show. I don’t recall much else.

Day 3 – Didcot
Didcot Cornerstone is a new arts centre and theatre, right next door to a cinema. I’m upset that I’ve missed a load of good movies including Super 8 and Captain America, so I go and see Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I like it. The venue is a studio space, all modern and cool, and made the nicer by Emily the front of house manager, who is very welcoming and very fit too. I look at her. I have been away from home for too long and give myself a big slap then phone my woman. The show is great.
We stay in the Kingswell Hotel, built over a well where one of the previous owners threw themselves in. I’m reminded we are in cider country as they serve a rather good cider and have a great pint beneath a picture of Winston Churchill.

Day 4 – Great Torrington.
After a B road drive the village of Great Torrington is lovely and has bunting hanging in the street. At the ‘Green Lantern Cafe and Bakery’ I order a ham and cheese toasty, a cheese and onion pasty, a cake and a mug of tea which all comes to £3. We are back in time. Charlie and I find a map of the town which includes the places such as ‘Ladies Wash’ and ‘Bastard lane’, we try to find Bastard lane but there is no sign post at the location for it when we do and an amusing photo call is lost.
There is a lot of history here and once a year there is a LARPing event where people get dressed up as cavaliers and try and bomb the town with cannons, to recreate an event involving Oliver Cromwell and 200 kegs of mislplaced gunpowder. There is a hill outside the town which was created with body parts. At the theatre they tell me about the history and the people are quaint and a bit scary.
The show is odd. As Danny Pensive I play mostly to silence and wonder if I’m holding up a mirror too close to the locals perception. There is one particularly long silence which I play to and let hang with a simple closed yes/no question, waiting for a least one of the 150 strong crowd to answer. No one does. It remains a silence.
In the toilets after the gig I spot a swastika carved into the wall, and overhear some children talking about Alistair Crowley.
We make our exist after the show and head off into even darker boonies and the Ram’s Head Inn for accomodation. The landlord is incredibly welcoming and chatty and the rooms are very elaborate. In the bar we get chatting, the landlord spots my Doctor Who t-shirt (one of many) and starts discussing my favourite television show. I happily join in until he tells me of the programme before my time when he was young, a show about a man who lived in a council house and built a tardis out of a shed he had in the back yard. What? I go to correct him, but he’s insistent. It’s all Erin our tour manager can do to interject so I don’t go apeshit. I get as far as naming the date and time of the broadcast of the first episode before the conversation is changed to something less dangerous.
I go to bed and watch the american apprentice final. Piers Morgan has won as he is a massive ****.

Day 5 & 6 Borehamwood
A day off and we drive to Borehamwood via Avebury, a small town with a big ring of stones and a National Trust site where creepy kids serial ‘Children of the Stones‘ was filmed back in the 70’s. I walk the circle with my headphones on listening to atmospheric soundtrack music to get the full on pagan magic effect.
Then on to Borehamwood, a bit of soul-less place after the last few days. It is however home of Elstree studios where some of star wars was actually made, and they still have some big budget movies shoot here apparently.
I’ve driven all day and I’m knackered and hungry. Wandering back to the hotel past Elstree with a pizza in one hand and a 4 pack of cider in the other, the older surrounding building’s still look authentically 50’s with their square partitioned single glazed windows, wood & glass doors and big wire mesh gates leading to warehouses behind . You could easily imagine it being a big hub of activity a few decade’s back, but now not so much. It’s all office space and I can look in and see stressed faces buried in computer screens.

The sun goes down and the sky is weird orangey pink colour. It looks beautiful, but at the same time quite oppressive. Show tomorrow.