Well, I think I have finally recovered from the incredible extravagantic, (Is that a word?), evening of celebration of the life and work of the great Vivian Stanshall that was ‘One Night Stanshall’ at the Bloomsbury Theatre last Tuesday, April 8th. It was quite a ride lemme tell you! For reasons of cost, (we do this show on a budget of 0p), we decided to travel by train to the show. But believe me, transporting 6 lunatics and their costumes, 2 banjos, 2 guitars, 4 ukeleles, a trumpet, a tube trumpet, a stroh-violin, (ask Bill), a clarinet, a fiddle, a recorder, a glockenspiel, a conga, a snare, cymbals, various percussion, 2 suitcases of props, 3 camcorders plus tripods, a sword, a hunting horn, 4 hats and a horned gramophone on a train was sheer insanity! As we boarded the packed train, (it being the first day of half term), with all this gubbins at Runcorn Station, the scouse woman running the shop yelled out ‘Oh! YOU are ‘avin a laugh!’ To which I replied ‘No, but thanks to all this gear, hopefully 500 folks in London will be ‘avin one tomorrow night.’ Not a flicker of amusement passed across her face, not even for a top flight retort such as that!
In the end we got it all there safe and sound, the nice train driver even helped, by telling us to stack it by the doors which wouldn’t open until Euston. As we left the train, the driver made an announcement over the tannoy thing, to remind all passengers to ensure they didn’t leave their ‘bags or banjos’ behind…..made me laugh anyway. As we got off the train we loaded 2 of those trolley things up with this mountain of gear, and pushed them out of Euston Station, right across Euston Road, up Gordon Street, then up the ramp into the Bloomsbury. Which is where they stayed until we left – a snip at 2 quid – which we got back when we returned em on our way home anyway! One of my better ideas I thought, and anyway, the trolleys had ‘St Pancras’ printed on em, so, if it’s good enough for Network Rail……besides we didn’t steal them, merely borrowed them. I mean, who do you think we are? Politicians? Speaking of which, I never got me quid back! That bloody Jonny Hase MP must’ve had it off!!
So, job one, transportation – done – but now for the ‘main business of the evening’. To get everybody drilled and readied for the evening’s show – no mean feat, as the show ran at 2 and a half hours and comprised a compleat performance of ‘Sir Henry at Rawlinson End’, Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer singing ‘A Bout of Sobriety’ and Rick Wakeman, Neil Innes and David Caitlin-Birch, (the ‘Mock Macca’ in The Bootleg Beatles), performing ‘My Pink Half of the Drainpipe’ and ‘I’m Bored’. Plus myself, Brainwashing House and Rick, Neil, Danny Thompson, Rod Slater, Susie Honeyman, Jim Cuomo and John Halsey performing a mini-tribute to that other lost classic of Viv’s – ‘Teddy Boys Don’t Knit’, to whit ‘The Cracks are Showing’, ‘Terry Keeps His Clips On’, ‘Possibly an Armchair’ and ‘Ginger Geezer’. Yes, a lot of that does involve me doesn’t it? this is what happens when guest vocalists drop out. As per usual, old dickhead here jumps up and says ‘I’ll do it!’ WITH the guys Vivian Stanshall referred to as his ‘dream band’ you say? Aye! Why not! No pressure then…..
As it happens our MD, the incomparable Bill Leach, pulled this huge show and this incredible array of talent into shape between 10am and 7pm on the day. If it hadn’t been for his skill and expertise, there would have been no show. WHEW! Thank Clapton for Bill! Once me and the musos were all drilled and ready for action, it was time for one last chap to rehearse – Vivian’s son Rupert. As you’d expect, Rupert took to reprising his role in the original recording of ‘Possibly an Armchair’ with great alacrity, and the theatre went silent as we put the final polish on the song. A real ‘goosebumps’ moment! So, with the music now sorted, only one final, but critical, element was required to complete the show. Paradoxically, this last piece of the jigsaw, was the intro to the show, starring ‘Time Team’ stalwarts Francis Pryor and Phil Harding. To say that meeting these two chaps was a thrill would be greatly understating the matter. Both Phil and Francis were just as charming, barmy and hilarious as you’d imagine, and so with a few runs of their ‘bit’ (a piece I wrote for them about the theatre being built on an old Iron Age monument), we were off!!
Aside from the inevitable cock-ups that you will always get with such an ambitious, crazy and huge live show, all of which were dealt with admirably by our stage manager for the night Laura, the show ran like clockwork, and by the interval we were reasonably content that we had done a great first half. So, in true Stanshall style, we decided to spend the interval in a suitably fitting manner, telling jokes and relaxing with a beer or two. The idea being to totally prepare for giving the second half of the show even more gusto and energy than the first!
Incredibly, the second half DID go even more swimmingly than the first, and we all had an absolute ball performing for the Bloomsbury crowd that night! I shall never, ever forget such an incredible and amazing experience! The press release had promised ‘an evening of jaw-dropping entertainment’ and we all worked our arses orf, and did our utmost, to provide it! Judging by the flurry of positive comments which filled Twitter afterwards, our audience agreed. HURRAH! Job’s a good un! Below are just a selection of the Tweets. Thankyou all, it really made all the hard work so worthwhile!
And that was that! Months of preparation, emails, tweets, phonecalls, scoring music, line-learning, beer drinking, poster designing, disc burning, hair-tearing and rehearsal by myself, Rupert, Bill, Chris, Ged, John ‘no jokes please’ Lewis and Jonny ‘Bongo’ Hase was all over! But, as Rick Wakeman posits in his tweet above, it should be an annual event. But will it? Will there be another show next year? Well, as our Press Release also promised, it was a ‘not to be repeated’ event, and this, again, is totally true. With this original line-up of Brainwashing House, only one more show, at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre on June 18th remains. After that, Brainwashing House shall sadly be no more. The chaps shall be hanging up their cobwebs, and sailing on to pastures new, (a mixed metaphor, but you get the picture), and I wish each and every one of them the very best of luck, thank them for 4 years of amazing fun and brilliant times, and cross my fat fingers that our professional paths may one day cross again. Still, they’ve not split yet, so here is a cracking pic of the whole company the morning after One Night Stanshall.
However, let us not be down’earted bruvvers, there is still one more show to go! Afore ye go, here is a little snippet taken from the mixing desk recording of ‘One Night Stanshall’. ‘Possibly an Armchair’, which features me on vox, Bill on guitars, Ukelele Huff on uke, John ‘no jokes please’ Lewis on clarinet, Ged Fox on trumpet, Jonny ‘Bongo’ Hase on percussion, Neil Innes and Rick Wakeman side-by-side on piano, Danny Thompson on bass, Rodney Slater on bass clarinet, Jim Cuomo on soprano sax and Susie Honeyman on violin. The track also features a special guest appearance by Rupert Stanshall, reprising his role from the original recording!
So, what does the future hold for Sir Henry at Rawlinson End? For the answer read on’t dot, dot, dot, dot, dot