The Diary: Stephen Merchant; Shakespeare's Globe; Cirque du Soleil; John Cleese; X Factor
Friday 18 December 2009
Merchant of his own comedy wares
Ricky Gervais has been busy conquering Hollywood, most recently with the announcement that he would be presenting the next Golden Globes, but what has become of his more retiring 'Office' co-writer Stephen Merchant? He has turned to stand-up – and, on the evidence of this latest (rare) outing, he's well on the way to eclipsing Gervais's last live effort, 'Science', which received, at best, lukewarm reviews. The shy, bespectacled comedy giant, who has said that he struggled to find his voice when he first tried stand-up in the late Nineties, tried out new material at Feature Spot's 100 Club night in London and received a rapturous response. He briefly referred to "the other one", but Gervais was soon forgotten in a set of polished, eminently likeable routines about being 6ft 7in tall, the expensive business of dating and 'Blue Peter' badges. Plus there was some inspired, unexpected riffing on his many awards. Let's hope that he makes it into a full-length show and takes it on tour next year.
Globe's first lady
Well it's only taken 410 years (or 13 if you're counting from its present-day incarnation) but Shakespeare's Globe is to stage its first ever play by a female playwright. 'Bedlam', by Nell Leyshon ('Comfort Me With Apples'), is set in an institution for the insane, and is based on research from Bethlem Royal Hospital. What with Howard Brenton's eagerly awaited new play 'Anne Boleyn' and 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' coming back, 2010 is shaping up to be the year of the woman on Bankside. Not before time.
Many things in a Cirque du Soleil spectacle require a double-take, none more so than the aerial-strap routine in 'Varekai', which arrives in the UK in January. It is performed by identical twins Andrew and Kevin Atherton (Andrew is the elder by three minutes) who don jet-black and blue wigs, hang from the rafters and swoop through the air, attached only by their wrists. The brothers have been part of the mega-circus troupe for nine years. Before that, they were fierce rival members of the British gymnastics team.
Cleese twigs the right comedy branch
John Cleese may have returned to the stage to fund his £12m divorce, but you'll have to go abroad if you want to see him. Of late, the comedian, 70, has restricted his appearances to Norway and New Zealand or, "as far off-Broadway as you can get while staying on this planet. You're safe that far away." In a rare interview with talented young sketch troupe Idiots of Ants (on idiotsofants.com), Cleese goes on to reveal that the Pythons were paid "incredibly little" by the BBC. "For one series I got £4,000. We were living like good bank managers." He also described his Goldilocks-like choice of the tree with which to attack his car in the immortal 'Fawlty Towers' scene. "The first time, I got a branch that was too rigid – wasn't funny. Then I got one that was much too floppy – wasn't funny. Then I got a branch that was just the right degree of floppiness – and it was hilarious. It's not just the idea, it's the execution."
'X Factor' losers in the terminal zone
For Joe McElderry, a million-pound record contract, a Christmas No 1 (probably) and Cheryl Cole's sisterly adoration. For Stacey Solomon and Olly Murs... The Gatwick Factor. The runners-up had a bumpy return to earth this week as they landed the honour of launching a new karaoke competition at the airport. The stuff dreams are made of, indeed. To win a trip to see the Northern Lights, entrants are invited to sing while waiting for their flights, as other bored passengers play Simon Cowell and vote for their favourites. It beats downing another bottle of duty-free gin until the strike ends, I suppose.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who was struck and killed by lightning in Brecon Beacons 'was carrying a selfie stick'
- 2 Lisa Randolph-Gant: Queen Elsa cake maker says she will carry on baking and will not let people 'break her spirit'
- 3 Tube strike: This pedestrian-friendly map tells you time it takes to walk between stations
- 4 Pamplona Running of the Bulls 2015: Three men gored and 10 hospitalised on first day of festival
- 5 Sarah Jessica Parker explains why she is not a feminist: 'It's not just about women now'
Artist Milo Moire arrested in Paris for taking naked selfies with passers-by in front of the Eiffel Tower
Is Jon Snow dead? Theories stoked by Kit Harrington's longer hair despite Game of Thrones director claiming he's 'deader than dead'
Noel Gallagher actually gives Kanye West some credit for his Glastonbury headline set: 'For half an hour it was as good as it gets'
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas run through Google's Deep Dream neural network is pure nightmare fuel
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
Greece debt crisis: Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande issue Athens with 24-hour ultimatum to avoid crashing out of the euro
Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy