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The League of Gentlemen's UK live stage tour 2000

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Brighton Centre, Kings Road, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 2GR . Tel: 0870 900 9 100.

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      17.03.2001 20:36
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      Three men in tuxedoes enter the stage and sit on the three white chairs placed in the middle. For the next four hours or so, these men would transmogrify into all manner of grotesque characters. They would clip on a pair of earrings and become an embittered, downtrodden housewife; they would throw on a football scarf and become bizarre fans chanting words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet at unseen actors supposedly on a stage before them. They would lead us on a terrifying journey through the shadowy realms of the human condition and the horrors that lurk beneath the surface in every small village in the world. Oh yes, and they would make us laugh until the tears streamed down our faces, until we honest-to-god thought we would wet ourselves, until our guts ached. Together, these three men form The League of Gentlemen, and this review serves as a clarion call to Locals everywhere: Go and see them live if they come to a town near you! Sell your Grandmother’s hair, sell your soul if needs be. I swear you will have never seen anything so hilarious in your life. You may be disturbed at times, you may shudder and turn away, but you will be laughing so hard you’ll even forget how expensive the drinks are in the foyer bar. And that, my friends, takes a whole lot of laughing. ‘A Local Show for Local People’ is currently touring around the country. I saw them live at The Brighton Centre last week, and I believe they are presently in-situ in the West End of London, selling out every single show they do along the way. Indeed, the night I saw them had been added on because the tickets for the previous show had been sold-out in a matter of a few hours. All 2,500 tickets, mind you, and with very little publicity. Brighton has a very young population, but it was an interesting phenomenon to witness the average age of the audience – I’d say at least 90% of the audience I sa
      w the show with were twenty somethings’. Perhaps this is the average age of those who go and see comedy shows, but I would guess this is also the average age of The League’s fans anyway. I wonder why this is? Because they are so off-the-wall-odd, yet deeply routed in the traditions of comedy? There are certainly some shades of the Monty Python crew in their heyday, also a smattering of vaudevillian creepiness and slapstick, the performer as human caricature. Maybe this appeals to this (my) age group, or maybe it’s more to do with the fact that The League of Gentlemen express certain truths about growing up in a villagey atmosphere – something everyone can relate to, even if you’re not actually from a village or small town. They represent, through their characters, uneasiness, a restlessness to escape, an unwillingness to conform. In a sense, we are all, or have been at some time, the character of young Ben – a stranger in town who is made to feel uncomfortable (to put it mildly!) when surrounded by Locals. People who live to bizarre rituals, yet consider them commonplace and attempt to force us to join in, whilst simultaneously rebuking us for not being Local. Perhaps we haven’t exactly been asked to drink our own urine at breakfast, but you get my point… The show is split into two distinct halves – the first is original sketches, quick-fire, quick-change stuff that leaps from end to end of the spectrum of comedy. Apparently, this is more ‘true’ to their early performances, more like their original show that took Edinburgh audiences by storm and won them the coveted Perrier Award at the festival. This is before they went on to develop as The League of Gentlemen as we know them from the TV show on BBC2. I loved the first half of the show, certainly – what’s not to love about seamlessly simple, perfectly timed original routines that co
      uld be a masterclass in modern comedy? A blacked-out set with those three white chairs, the barest minimum of props, no special effects, nothing except the pure genius of the performers, filling the auditorium as if fireworks were bouncing off the walls. You could tell, though, the audience wanted to see the Local People they had come to know and love. We wanted Tubbs and Edward (the Local shopkeepers), we wanted Pauline (the evil Job Centre’s ‘Re-start’ course teacher), we wanted Hilary Briss (the Local Butcher who serves ‘special stuff’ – aka Human flesh – to his valued customers). And, of course, we were to get our wishes, and so much more, after the brief interval. A word on that interval: I wonder how many people would willingly pay £1.30 for a can of Pepsi from a vending machine? Eccentric millionaires, perchance, or those misguided fools who live a real-life version of the once popular board game ‘Go For Broke’ (in which the object was to get rid of your money as quickly as possible – the winner being the first player to go broke…)? I’ll tell you who wouldn’t pay that obscene amount for a single can of drink: my boyfriend and me! The thing was, there was an almighty queue at the bar and the old throat was furring up, so I had to make do with sucking a mint and staring wistfully at people emptying their purses upside down in an attempt to gather enough coinage to whet their whistles. I also simply longed to re-lable the contents of the machine “I can I can’t”, but penless and stickerless, it was not to be… Okay, so interval over, we scurried back to our seats (which, I must inform you, were the most uncomfortable I have ever sat on in my life. My knees were practically level with my ears, there was so little leg room; but I digress…) We were greeted by the curtains of the stage sweeping majestically open, t
      o reveal a starlit sky backdrop, and, in front, a large sign lit by spotlights: ‘Welcome to Royston Vasey…you’ll never leave!’ A massive cheer rolled through the audience, people burst out laughing and screamed, whistled, clapped, rose to their feet…a booming voice from above rang out and at once we were hushed, expectant… “Where are we, Edward? Are we in Swansea? I don’t think we’re in Royston Vasey anymore!” “No Tubbs, we’re in The Other Place…We’re in…Brighton!” Clamorous applause and laugher fills the theatre again. I don’t want to describe anymore about this segment – it would spoil it too much for those wanting to see the show now (or in the future). Suffice to say, all the favourite characters are there, all the ones we adore and cheer for and know the catchphrases off-by-heart. I was thrilled to see them – it was akin to being a little girl and getting to meet Father Christmas, The Easter Bunny and The Tooth Fairy all at once! Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith – three men in tuxedoes or wigs or spangled suits; three men who made me laugh harder than I ever have before; three men who just about made my year. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the fourth member of The League (who doesn’t appear, but writes and devises many of the characters and sketches with the others), Jeremy Dyson. I must admit to being a little skeptical before seeing them live. I wondered how these three blokes would manage to fill The Brighton Centre’s stage, how on earth they would fill four hours for that matter! These men are giants of comedy, and yes they filled the place and the time, they filled it until the walls could have burst. I was amazed at how well the show worked, live. Of course, they were going back to their routes, this is how it all started fo
      r them and all that malarkey…but they were brilliant, from start to finish. They could have gone on all night, and we, the greedy, gluttonous audience, would still have been begging for more…more…more! The League are fantastic ad-libbers, too: Naturally there were people from the audience shouting out lines, trying to interrupt and impress their mates. At one point, ‘Pauline’ enters the stage, and one bloke shouted out, several times and very annoyingly: “Show us your pens!” Pauline slowly turned in his direction, puckered her face into an Anne Robinson-esque haughty smugness, and held aloft the pen that hung around her neck on a cord. No hurrying, utterly unflustered. “Now show us –your- pens,” she smirked. “No. Exactly. You can’t be trusted with pens, can you, at the Day Centre?”Bloke shut up; everyone laughed at his expense. Perfect. Another scene involved the flamboyantly gay ‘Herr Lipp’, delving into the audience to find “…some nice men to play games with me!” He falls onto the lap of some poor devil, who was wishing he hadn’t sat there, takes him by the hand and pulls him up on stage. “And what is your name, please?” he asks simperingly, still holding his hand. “Tim”, came the meek reply. “Oh, well, we shall be hoping you’re not tiny, Tim…”Herr Lipp giggles. The audience in hysterics at the forlornly shy figure of Tim, blushing like a big blushing thing in a spotlight. It’s a corny joke, but so in keeping with the character and totally off-the-cuff. Wonderful. Were there disadvantages to seeing the show live? Well, that depends on what you see as disadvatages, really. With a booking fee, it cost me over £40 for two tickets, the drinks were hideously expensive, the seats were uncomfortable, and it did become a little bit annoying, at times, that some peop
      le would try and shout out lines. I had seen a few of the sketches before (on the TV show), but they were still fresh, still made you laugh, and there was a great deal of pleasure in knowing what happened next, yet still giggling at the surprise of it. There was enough new material to delight us, and just the right amount of ‘old favourites’ to tickle our collective fancy. In fact, this is how you hope your favourite band’s gig will go – a mixture of old and new, no snobbiness from the band members refusing to play the hits, no laziness in churning out sure-fire crowd pleasers. I would have liked to see the show in a smaller venue – we were in the front raised stalls and had a great view, but weren’t close enough to smell them, and I think that’s important! However, the tuxedoed men made me forget my troubles, my numb bum and uncomfortably skewed legs, the amount I had paid overall and oh my lord, they made my mascara run. I loved them; I wanted to marry them all. The programme costs £6 and isn’t very big, but I’m still glad I got one. It’s very glossy, has photos of The League and a free ‘Papa Lazarou’s Pandemonium Carnival’ poster in the centre pages (Papa is, for me, the most horrifying comedy character ever created…I adore him!) And mock interviews with the cast. Being the consumer glutton that I undoubtedly am, I just had to get one of the many t-shirts on sale at the venue, too. I chose the ‘Hello Dave’ baseball shirt, others included a shirt with ‘I can’ on the front, and ‘I can’t’ on the back (I was sorely tempted by that one); ‘Special Stuff’, ‘My Nipples Are Like Bullets’, ‘Crème Brulee’, and a toad T-shirt. In case you can’t get to the show, but would still like to purchase League of Gentlemen merchandise – go to the following website an
      d you can order online: http://www.tcbinc.co.uk But, Local People, I urge you to see them live if you can. It’s an experience you wont forget in a hurry (and you can relay what happened to your bemused parents, who didn’t crack a smile at the jokes, as I did…I like to remind them how weird I am, sometimes ;-)

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