Review

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The Independent Culture
"My whole life revolves round that wall," said Allan, aka Fearless, a motor-cycle Wall of Death rider. Well, precisely. Couldn't have put it better myself. Allan didn't at first strike you as one for sly wordplay, so I put the joke down to a stroke of luck. But as he continued it became clear that he had worked up a couple of good lines, perhaps as an element of his roll-up patter. "I've got that many splinters in me," he continued, "it's part of me in more ways than one."

I doubt if Allan really takes a tumble much these days - he can, as Rukhsana Mosam's film demonstrated, whirl round that little wooden barrel sitting side-saddle with his hands in the air - but business has been falling off even if he hasn't. With that in mind he had decided the act needed a new gimmick and had advertised for a woman prepared to ride pillion. "Mid- twenties, nice and slim, bit of an exhibitionist, reasonably attractive, that's the sort of girl I'm looking for - one that's prepared to take a few risks." It sounded like the type of invitation a nice girl would steer well clear of, but as it happened one of the oddities of Short Stories's engaging film (C4) was the almost complete absence of sexual tension. This should have been a volatile mix, shouldn't it? Combine even the most modest feminist sensibility with the leathery masculinity of the fairground rigger and stand well back. But in truth Allan wasn't particularly fussy about how attractive his new attraction should be, apparently believing that raw gender alone would be a sufficient draw for the punters. You imagined he would be after a spangled beauty in high-cut tights, but his requirements were more minimal than that, his indifference to niceties only held in check by his young co-rider Ned.

Ned was a very unusual thing - a new man who rides motor cycles up walls. "I know you're not supposed to be weightist. . . er fattist," he said in apologetic tones, "but there's a job to be done isn't there?" Allan was blunter: "We don't want a fat slag do we?" he said equably. "Ey, ey, ey," Ned murmured disapprovingly. "You can't put that in, surely?" he said, turning to the director, which suggests that his line of work doesn't allow for much television viewing.

Allan's main criterion, it turned out, was more to do with motorbikes than feminine curves. "If you saw her walking down the street," he said of an early, unsuccessful candidate, "you wouldn't know she had a bike." Not being a motorcyclist I wouldn't know how you tell - no flies on her teeth, I suppose, or something to do with the set of the legs. It didn't matter anyway because a surprising number of suitable girls turned up, even if some of them had clearly come along for a free ride. None of them offered much in the way of explanation as to why they wanted to give up secure employment for the post of horizontal handlebar mascot - "I feel I'm just going round in circles in my current job," perhaps?

A campaign medal finally, awarded to The Saturday Night Armistice (BBC2), Armando Iannucci's topical comedy show. This is still finding its feet at the moment - large parts of it are very funny (the idea of a Tory leader scratchcard and the unveiling of "Wimbledon's new sounds") but it could do with a bit more deadpan from its performers and fewer satisfied grins.There's something just a touch claustrophobic about the all too visible glee. That said, you can't help but admire a fast-turnaround comedy programme which deals with the Tory leadership campaign and doesn't make a single joke about Vulcans or Star Trek. The citation reads: "Despite short deadlines and overwhelming odds the programme-makers displayed heroic self-discipline in the face of obvious gags."

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