Gross me out: Dan Fenton's new show pays tribute to an unlikely hero with a distinctive voice. James Rampton met Loyd Grossman's number one fan

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The actor / playwright Dan Fenton is in the grip of an unusual obsession: Loyd Grossman. He claims to have a picture of his hero taped on to his fridge door. And over breakfast in a London cafe, for no discernible reason, he breaks into that all-too-imitable mid-Atlantic accent and points at a cup of coffee: 'Get a load of the froth on that cappuccino.' In the latest - and most extreme - manifestation of this mania, Fenton has written a musical about the man who could be most politely described as 'phonetically-challenged'.

Loyd Grossman - Out to Lunch] is, its author reveals, 'the first piece ever written about Loyd - amazing for a cultural icon of his size'. Fenton and his producer and fellow performer Sebastian James serve up a theatrical smorgasbord at the Canal Cafe in London this evening, before taking the show on to Edinburgh later in the summer.

They struck on the idea after Fenton did a 'Hitchcockian cameo' as Loyd in So Long, Eldorado, a play they mounted last year. When 'it provided the only laugh of the evening,' they decided to expand their portrait of the man commonly said to suffer from 'irritable vowel syndrome'.

Fenton and James, who met at Oxford University, claim to have been inspired by the 'high quality of Loyd's broadcasts', but the suspicion remains that the high quality of his mockability was more of an attraction. 'His television shows have a nail-biting quality,' Fenton says. 'You watch in fascination to see if he really will go on talking like that. If you possess certain faculties - like the ability to hear - Loyd will stick in your mind.'

The play helps to unravel the mystery of The Voice. 'On his first visit to England,' Fenton explains, 'Loyd was deeply traumatised by the reaction to his accent' and proceeded to site it somewhere between Boston and Badminton.

Out to Lunch centres on an amnesiac patient (Grossman / Fenton) gradually recovering his memory. At the end, according to Fenton, 'when Loyd has finally discovered himself, in the grand tradition of Andrew Lloyd Webber, he bursts into a moving ballad. 'I Know Who I Am' contains many references to kumquats.' (It is perhaps appropriate that Loyd - who as Jet Bronx and the Forbidden reached number 47 in the charts in 1977 - should be celebrated in such melodic style.)

James, like Kenny Everett, is quick to point out that it's all done in the best possible taste. 'It's good-natured . . . we're ribbing rather than ruthlessly exposing him. If I were a breakfast television presenter, on the other hand, I would probably not rush to see this show.' Does the author think the Boston vowel-strangler will sue, then? 'No, but Jane Asher will.'

Fenton will know for sure if Loyd is offended by his pronunciation of such phrases as 'coulis of butterscotch', 'julienne of carrot batons' and 'cogitated, deliberated and digested' later this week. 'I picked up the phone this morning. When I heard 'Hello, this is Loyd Grossman here, I'd love to come to your play,' I was quite speechless. It was 8.45am. Clearly he was rushing out to cook a three-course meal.'

Eldorado last year, Loyd Grossman this. What will be the next item Fenton and James devour from the menu of popular culture? 'I'm writing a Mills & Boon-style story that depends very heavily on sideburns,' Fenton says. Beyond that? 'I don't know. Someone has got to jump out at us in the way that Loyd did. I don't think that it's going to be Jane Asher.'

'Loyd Grossman - Out To Lunch]' is at the Canal Cafe Theatre, London W9 (071-289 6054) from tonight until Sunday

(Photographs omitted)

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