The comedian and poet John Hegley is doing a little dance. Not for the first time. His participation in one of London South Bank's Rhythm Method seasons last year went down so well he has devised a new show called Dancing with Potatoes which opens at the Bloomsbury Theatre on Tuesday. Hegley says of the first show ``It seemed to go down well and it was largely a dance audience.'' It should be said at this point that John Hegley's persona is so endearing that people would probably laugh enthusiastically if he stood on stage and repeatedly erected a deckchair. Very few people could get away with ``dance'' of this nature. The new piece is a considerable departure thanks to the participation of the vegetable basket.
There was a time when no self-respecting gagman would have trod the boards without including a buck-and-wing dance or a short tap routine. The effects of this music hall hangover were still lingering in the Sixties and Seventies when the likes of Bruce Forsythe and Morecambe and Wise were still showing their versatility in routines that were a throwback to the variety stage. Not that the dance element of such shows was necessarily comic (at least not intentionally so). Today, comedians tend to polarise into either visual or textual jokes. Hegley is anxious to eradicate such boundaries and reintroduce dance into the comedy repertoire. He has even had a crack at Wilson, Keppel and Betty's most famous routine - although at the time of going to press Hegley's Sand Dance is still pretty much at the bedroom mirror stage.
He may be happy to acquire a new string to his bow but confesses that poetry and comedy still form the bulk of the set. "The dance element is a 10-minute component of the thing. I am largely a word-based person and it is mainly poetry but then dance pieces are mostly dance after all.'' However, his own performances are only one aspect of his new interest. Hegley was a judge of the Bagnolet awards in France last year and has also been working with Lilian Baylis Youth Dance. "We've been doing some other things with other vegetables but I can't say which.'' What made him choose potatoes? "We worked out pure movement first, then I said it needed to have something funny. Then I said `I know what we'll do. We'll do it holding potatoes'. Potatoes are the dogs of vegetables. They are the king of the vegetable world just as the dog is the king of the animal world. If you look in a dog's eyes you see peace, if you look in a potato's eyes you feel peace.''
EYE ON THE NEW
Take pot luck at London's Place Theatre every night during the Resolution! season in which young choreographers try out new work. Three acts a night for a mere pounds 8. At worst it will be so bad you can dine out on it for weeks, at best you could witness the start of something big. Place Theatre, London WC1 (0171-387 0031) to 15 FebReuse content