Apart from the cold, I'm feeling very sorry for myself because of my large retinue. When I last toured, just four of us would pile into an estate car after the show, drink a bit and fall asleep as we were driven home. But now there are two dancers, Charlotte and Dana, Cheryl the costume person, Ian the tour manager, John Otway the support act and his guitarist Richard, Rob on sound and Martin the stage manager.
Every evening after the performance we all end up in the hotel bar where they all have a fabulous time laughing and joking, while I - Coco the clown - sit slumped in a corner mute from fatigue and show-lag, drooling and occasionally mumbling a bit from the show to myself and sniggering. The only person having a worse time than me is my wife. She suffers all the anxiety of the pre-show build-up without the catharsis of performance. Afterwards her role is reduced to sitting with me in the bar doing what one of my friends described as "keeping the flies off Coco". From her viewpoint the only good thing to come out of this experience is that "keeping the flies off Coco" will be a great title for her autobiography.
After half an hour of my Christy Brown impersonation, I am led off to bed to sleep more or less until the next show. Meanwhile, downstairs, in an atmosphere similar to the last days of the Weimar Republic, the rest of the crew par-tay with each other and various new friends they have made, until dawn.
The only time I went out with everybody it was a disaster. We went for an Indian meal in Nottingham and I came a cropper when I ordered a prawn madras. In my local curry house this dish is fairly mild, but in the East Midlands it apparently has the inflammability of a Second World War firestorm. I had to run out of the restaurant and stick my mouth under an ornamental fountain in the town centre.
One thing I expect Tony Blair might do when he comes to power is to introduce a national standard for the thermal qualities of curries, so that a vindaloo in Aberdeen or in Ashurst, Kent, will have exactly the same mouth-burning strength. This must be a major priority for the incoming administration and I am prepared to offer myself as Minister of Curries in the new government to administer this measure of national unity.
Before that happens, though, there is the rest of this tour to contend with. Being at the centre of the little world that has sprung into being at my behest is not a new feeling for me nor, indeed, I would guess for any writer-performer. Touring or writing and starring in a TV series or film is a bit like playing that SimCity computer game where, once you have created your simulated city or country, it takes on a life of its own and grows in unpredictable ways. A few years ago I made a TV film for Channel 4 which I had co-written and starred in. All the action was set on a council estate just outside Hull where nothing much had ever happened.
The social consequences of the two weeks that the crew spent there will be felt down the ages. A stone was lobbed into the pool of time and its ripples continue. Many of the young women on the estate had their affections tampered with - not to mention their underwear. One of the heads of department got pregnant by one of the senior technical crew and now has a six-year- old daughter and all the inhabitants of the estate were shown a glimpse of an impossibly glamorous world. Where, before, their circumscribed life had seemed tolerable, now that they knew there was so much out there that they would never taste, so their life seemed doubly hollow.
At the centre of this maelstrom that had been called into being by words scribbled in his notebook months before, old Coco the Clown slumbered in a corner of the hotel bar, flies slowly circling his head.Reuse content