Archive | 2. EALING LIVE ALLUMNI RSS feed for this section

I Am A Video

22 Nov
© Waen Shepherd

© Waen Shepherd

Gary Le Strange is back with a brand new single, and it’s available from all good digital retailers on Tuesday!

The alter-ego of Waen Shepherd, Le Strange is a failed synth pop-star who was the subject of three live shows at Edinburgh Fringe (including the Perrier Comedy Award winning Polaroid Suitcase), who made a return to the scene in 2012 at The Velvet Onion Live.

Since then, Le Strange has released a new EP, Glamoronica, and two previous singles – Norman (I’ve Dropped My Cup of Tea) and Shut Up Mum. He’s also made sporadic live appearances, with his next supporting synth-rockers Tenek on Saturday 28th November.

Now comes new single I Am A Video – released on iTunes, Amazon and other retailers on Tuesday 24th November, with the Amazon link already up for pre-order now. While we wait for the track to launch, here’s a behind the scenes clip of Gary making the music video to enjoy.

More Smiley On Screen

15 Nov

Michael Smiley‘s been a busy chap, with a fair few of the projects that he’s recently been involved in receiving coverage this week:

Earlier this year we told you about his role in Orthodox, an independent film about an Orthodox Jewish boy, Benjamin, bullied for his faith, and who turns to boxing as a means of self defence. This week the film received its UK premiere at the Phoenix cinema in London, which included a cast Q&A. For more photos from the event and to find out where else the film is showing, follow Orthodox’s Facebook page or twitter feed.

© Zeitgeist

© Zeitgeist

This week were also told that Mr Smiley would be reprising his role of computer whiz Benny Silver in the new series of Luther. Rumour has it that BBC America will screen Luther series 4 as a three-hour special on Thursday the 17th of December, but as yet there’s no information about how the series will be screened for British audiences.

If you like your entertainment to be a bit out there and arty, try to catch the critically-aclaimed movie, The Lobster while it’s still on general release. Michael’s also in that – and here he is talking about it at the premiere:

And finally, don’t forget that he’s also in Belly of The Bulldog, a film by Nick Gillespie about a dramatic horror film about a group of mercenaries and their prisoners, also featuring Tom Meeten. Michael plays a character by the name of Capper and Tom plays Evans in the film. Belly of the Bulldog had its premiere at Frightfest in October – to great reviews, and hopefully more of us will get to see it on the big screen next year. However, we have found it available to download for free from a variety of sites, so have a scout around if you’re interested. For more information, follow the film’s twitter feed.


The Peterford Golf Club

15 Nov


Early last month we told you about the revival of Peterford Golf Club, this time as part of Radio 2’s Comedy Showcase.

The show, now called The Peterford Golf Club) written by and starring Simon Farnaby, was broadcast at 10pm on Tuesday evening, with a repeat tomorrow at 10pm. It also starred Barunka O’Shaughnessy, Lucy Montgomery and Tom Meeten.

It is of course also available on BBC iPlayer.

Next weeks Comedy Showcase also has a few TVO connections. The King’s Men is written by Arthur Matthews alongside  Terry Mynott (Toast of London), who also stars in the show with Robert Webb.

The two main characters are policemen Ernest Ridley and Arthur Smyth. The lifelong friends are asked to join the new Secret Service in London, after discovering what they believed to be a German plot to invade The Isle of Sheppey.

Also in the cast are Katy Wix, Ellie White and Alex McQueen.

The show will be broadcast on Tuesday at 10pm on Radio 2  and is available now on BBC iPlayer.

There is another TVO connected Showcase available now and due to be broadcast on Wednesday. Ankle Tag stars Katy Wix and Ellis James as new parents whose lives are interrupted when his Dad appears unexpectedly, wanting to stay.

The episode also features Alice Lowe and is available now, again on BBC iPlayer.

The Power Of Three: Tom Meeten & Mike Fielding Talk Tours

9 Nov
© Joe Lynn

© Joe Lynn

With Noel Fielding embarking on the next leg of his UK tour, and US/Canada shows in the pipeline, we wanted to do our bit to support An Evening With Noel Fielding. But because we’re The Velvet Onion, and because you lovely lot expect something different from us compared to what you can find in the mainstream media, we wanted to approach it from a fresh angle.

So we asked Noel if he had any ideas. “I’d love to include Tom and Mike” was his reply. It quickly became all about Tom and Mike, rather than just about including them. Noel’s response says a lot about the significance of their roles in the show and the respect that he has for his co-performers. Here then is what Tom Meeten and Mike Fielding told us about the live show and how the three of them work together. A glimpse through the stage curtains from a different angle, as it were:

© Dave Brown/Afrikids

© Dave Brown/Afrikids

I meet Tom in a busy West End pub. Owner of one of the deepest voices in comedy (transcribing the interview uses parts of my inner ear hitherto unknown) and initially quiet, Tom turns out to be terrific fun. Unguarded, candid and possessing an encyclopaedic knowledge of our kind of comedy,  spending an hour in his company is a real treat.

We discuss most of the projects and creative partnerships he has ever been involved with, including his enduring double act with Steve Oram, his recent appearance in the marvellous monkey movie Aaaaaaaah! and his starring role in a serious new feature film The Ghoul, written and directed by Gareth Tunley. But more of that another time; right now we’re focusing on Tom’s involvement in An Evening With Noel Fielding. Before we begin I mention Noel’s insistence that Tom and Mike are given an interview platform. He laughs: “Noel always wants to make it not just about him, but no one is interested!” Well we are.

As the conversation unfolds and the extent of Tom’s involvement in both the development and the performance of the live show becomes clear, one can only wonder how he could be perceived as anything other than a fundamental part of its story.

Tom and Noel have been friends for years, their first meeting taking place during the early days of their stand up careers. “I would turn up to gigs and people would think I was Noel – we had similar 90’s hair.” Tom remembers. “Lance Dior was based on that kind of thing. When I first met Noel I’d done an advert and his gran thought it was him. He was mildly furious that people thought it was him. It was one of the first conversations we ever had.”

© Joe Lynn

© Joe Lynn

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and they’re now working together on live material. An Evening With… was written by Noel and Tom, with the addition of Nigel Coan (director of Luxury Comedy and long time friend of Noel’s) as the third member. “It was a really good dynamic,” notes Tom, adding that Nigel was, “Amazing, really lovely to work with.”

Much has been written and debated about the significance of the double act in comedy: Morcambe & Wise, Vic & Bob, Barratt & Fielding, Oram & Meeten – there are endless examples of comedy power couples, and as a nation we love them. Famous comedy trios are a tad thinner on the ground; Noel, Tom and Mike all cite The Marx Brothers as their favourite threesome when I ask. I’m keen to understand how working as a three shifts the dynamic. “When you’re creating something, it’s it’s about making choices. If there are three voices you can debate it more, which gives you extra reassurance,” Tom explains. “With a double act it’s much more one person’s opinion versus the other.”

This unique set up allowed the trio to enjoy the best of both worlds: the additional perspective that a third person brings compared to two, and also clearly defined roles between the three of them: “The more people you have, if you don’t have a leader, the more dissipated the material gets. You need a singular vision. But then with this – and I flatter myself that I helped write it – it’s really all about Noel’s ideas. He’s the boss.” Tom says. There’s no hint of anything other than respect and camaraderie.

With Noel at the helm, Tom frequently saw his role as helping to filter ideas: “Noel has the most ideas per minute of anyone I’ve ever worked with,” he laughs. “And sometimes we would spend a whole day discussing one of those brilliant ideas and trying to work out how it would work in the context of the show.”

Tom explains that this sometimes meant killing off ideas which held real promise: “There’s a whole alternative show of weird and beautiful stuff,” he sighs. He mentions a Dondylion sketch (performed twice as part of their warm ups) which sadly didn’t make it to the final cut: “That was me and Noel being left alone without Nigel, creating this weird sadistic sketch. I still think there’s something in it – I’d love to think one day it might resurface in some form, but it just wouldn’t fit into the show. “

© Joe Lynn

© Joe Lynn

The amount of practical planning that goes into the show is surprising; Preparation and sheer hard work is needed to bring those effortless flights of fancy to life on stage. Considerations like allowing time for costume changes, or the need to conceal props for later scenes can end up dictating whether a particular sketch remains in the show or not. It also explains the development of the strong supporting characters: “We had to establish other characters who could cover certain things – mundane practical stuff.  It means the characters have to be strong, so you put work into them,” says Tom.

He places a great deal of significance on his character’s first appearance on stage. “I get thrown to the lions a little bit. I’m the first person the audience sees that isn’t (a) Julian or (b) Mike. Half the people don’t know who the fuck I am!” Tom jokes. “In that moment when I come on, it’s really exciting because it might fail – and sometimes it has. The introduction of my character suddenly shifts it, so you never quite know. You say your first words and there’s a reaction…you feel it. That’s the amazing thing about performing live – you get influenced by the reaction you get. So if you get that reassurance from the audience, you’re away; you’re relaxed and excited. But sometimes I’ve come on and people have been, ‘What’s going on? Hold on – who’s this dude?’.”

I ask if audiences give any early clues as to what kind of reception he’s going to get. “There are certain parts of the show where you look for signals,” he explains. “During Noel’s stand up I’m backstage, waiting to go on. I know all of his stand up now – it goes around my head for weeks after we’ve finished the tour! There are certain points in it, and if they get a big laugh, you know it’s going to be a really good show. It’s reassurance.” I can only imagine what it must feel like, waiting in the wings for his cue on those nights when the positive signals aren’t forthcoming from the crowd.

© Dave Brown

© Dave Brown

An Evening With… includes some elements from Noel’s TV show Luxury Comedy (like Sergeant Ray Boombox and Joey Ramone), but it doesn’t rely on audiences being familiar with the series. I wonder whether there was any discussion about Tom’s TV character, Andy Warhol, featuring in the live show. “Andy Warhol was in some of the previews, but in the end we cut him out because he changed the dynamic. His status was wrong, because he was subservient and we needed a high status character to try to undermine Noel. You need that bit of friction.” Tom’s reply provides further evidence of the degree of thoughtfulness that’s gone into creating the show. Thrown together it certainly isn’t.

With our conversation drawing to a close, I bring up the third member of their on-stage troupe; how does Mike fits into the equation? “Mike is the enigma.” Tom pauses, as a smile spreads across his face: “Noel and me are doing all this hard work – I’m pouring with sweat and Noel’s just done this full hour of material, really working it. Mike just comes on stage and the house comes down!” Whenever Mike’s mentioned he’s spoken of with genuine fondness. The impression Tom gives of Mike is that he orbits in a slightly different plane to Noel and himself. But it’s clear that the dynamic works – both on stage and off, where his presence is felt very positively. “Mike keeps us going throughout the tour,” Tom observes.

© Tom Meeten

© Tom Meeten

My dialogue with Mike is sadly only fleeting, but no less charming for it; he’s one of the most considerate, polite people I’ve ever spoken to. I catch him at a busy time, during a week when he’s been attending a James Bond-themed party next to the runway at Gatwick airport and also serving drinks to Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman (which is what he does when he’s not on tour). As such, our conversation is limited to a few quick questions and answers.

Mike describes his role in An Evening With… as a lot more developed than the role he played on the Boosh tours, which is something he enjoys. I ask him how the working relationship between Noel, Tom and himself differs from that of the Boosh gang. “Its very different working as a trio,” he says. “Noel, Tom and I get on very well, we never fall out – even when we’re living in each others’ pockets on the road. When you have a bigger group, like the Boosh tour did, there’s too many egos in the pot; always someone trying to outshine the others or be the loudest. There’s great camaraderie in our trio; we call ourselves the Peloton, as we all have each others backs equally.”

I wonder what the highlight of the tour has been for him so far. “My favourite leg has been Australia. I love Australia; I moved there for a year in my teens, so it was amazing to go back and see a lot of my old friends and work colleagues. Australian crowds are very different to UK audiences, they’re very chilled out but still very much up for it – very humble and polite.”

After playing a shaman, an ant eater, the digital Wimbledon umpire and his brother’s wife, what’s next for Mike Fielding? “I’m still writing with my writing partner Max, (Peanut Jones in Luxury Comedy). We’re developing new ideas sand revisiting old scripts to refresh and condense them – and we’ll maybe film some stuff and put it online.” Given how unwittingly hilarious Mike is, this is something we need to see.

© Joe Lynn

© Joe Lynn

In the end I leave it to Tom to provide the final word on the dynamic between the three of them; besides the Marx Brothers, which other trios does he admire? He snorts derisively at my suggestion of sporting threesomes (“What sport do you know that’s played by three people?”), so we agree that it should be another comedy threesome. It takes a moment or two to think of one, then eventually inspiration hits: “The Three Amigos! Noel is Chevy Chase, Mike has to be Martin Short…and I’m Steve Martin.” Tom grins, visibly pleased with his conclusion. “I’ve come out of this very well!”

You lucky people can still get to see An Evening With Noel Fielding – in the UK from now through to December, and then touring the US and Canada in March/April 2016. For more information and to buy tickets visit Noel’s website.

Many thanks to Tom and Mike for giving their time to The Velvet Onion – and to Noel for suggesting that we badger them. We wish the three of you the best of luck for the rest of the tour!

Look out for Part 2 of our interview with Tom Meeten, coming soon, when he’ll be telling us about his new film The Ghoul, working on Aaaaaaaah!, and his working partnership with Steve Oram.

2015 British Independent Film Awards Nominations

5 Nov
© Rook Films

© Rook Films

The nominations for the Moët 2015 Independent Film awards have been announced, and we’re delighted to note that there are a couple of TVO-connected productions shortlisted!

Steve Oram‘s comedy horror Aaaaaaaah!, which features a cacophony of TVO talent has been nominated for The Disovery Award. It will be competing with Burn Burn Burn, Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, The Return and Winter. You can see trailers for all of those shortlisted in this category here.

This isn’t the first time Steve has enjoyed success at the BIFAs; in 2012 Sightseers picked up seven nominations, with Steve, Alice Lowe and Amy Jump picking up the winning gong for Best Screenplay for the film.

Amy Jump also features in this year’s list of nominations, for her screenwriting for High Rise. Directed by Ben Wheatley, High Rise has picked up four mentions overall in the 2015 list.

To see the full list of nominations take a look at this. The winners will be announced on 6 December at a ceremony at Old Billingsgate, London. In the meantime, congratulations to everyone shortlisted – particularly to ‘our lot’!

Crackanory Returns

5 Nov

The long awaited third series of Crackanory is just over a month away, and the full list of this year’s readers have been revealed.

Crackanory - Series 3 - Picture Shows: Richard Ayoade, Sarah Millican, Jimmy Carr, Catherine Tate, Simon Bird, Carrie Fisher, Greg Davies, Christopher Lloyd, Tamsin Greig, Paul Whitehouse, Moragana Robinson and Robbie Coltrane

© Tiger Aspect / UK TV

For the uninitiated, the show features big name guests reading twisted tales – intercut with live action and animated segments which quite often star a bevy of TVO regulars, many of whom are also on the writing staff!

As we revealed back in July, new stories have been written by the likes of Kevin EldonNico Tatarowicz, Holly Walsh and Toby Davies, whilst guest readers announced at the time were Back to the Future legend Christopher Lloyd, The Inbetweeners Simon Bird, plus comedy legends Sarah Millican, Greg Davies and Tamsin Grieg.

Now we can confirm that they will be joined by Richard AyoadeMorgana Robinson, Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Paul Whitehouse, Catherine Tate, Robbie Coltrane and Carrie Fisher (currently appearing in Catastrophe, and a little thing called Star Wars).

There’s currently no word of who will be appearing in the story segments, but across the first two series we saw the likes of James Bachman, John Willie Hopkins, Alex Kirk, Alice Lowe, Cariad Lloyd, Tom Meeten, Lucy Montgomery, Steve Oram, Tony Way and Katy Wix, whilst past episodes have been directed by Gareth Tunley and scored by Waen Shepherd, so we’re expecting to see some familiar faces once more.

Series three begins Monday 7th December at 10pm on Dave and in an unusual move, will air across that week at the same time until Saturday.

As ever, the yearning for a home media release of the whole series continues, but you can see a selection of promo images from the new series below.

BBC Store now open!

5 Nov


The BBC has unveiled the long awaited BBC Store: a new digital service that makes it easy for audiences to buy, enjoy and keep their favourite BBC programmes. And the best news of all is that it’s officially open right now!

A large collection of titles across genres are available at launch, featuring recently broadcast shows, television favourites and best of all – lost gems from the BBC archive.



BBC Store will work in tandem with the company’s longstanding iPlayer service – with a new My Programmes area allowing full playback.

iPlayer itself will continue to offer the same range of programmes to watch live, catch up on and download for up to 30 days for free, while the Store collection will continue to build each day. In fact, many BBC programmes will be made available to buy on BBC Store the day after transmission including, for the first time, serial dramas such as EastEnders and Holby City.

As an introductory offer to celebrate the launch of this new service and to get collections started, anyone registering with BBC Store will be eligible for a 25% discount on their first purchase. Audiences can buy programmes using a UK registered credit or debit card, and gift cards will be available to buy on the high street and in supermarkets in the coming weeks.

© Baby Cow

© Baby Cow

But what you really want to know is what TVO related goodies will be available from launch. Confirmed so far are the following classics and recent favourites:

  • The Detectorists – written, directed by & starring Mackenzie Crook and featuring Simon Farnaby
  • Doctor Who – The biggest sci-fi show in the land, with a cavalcade of TVO guest stars over the years. It’s various spin-off series will also be made available.
  • The Fast Show – Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse’s seminal sketch show phenomenon featuring Simon Day, Mark Williams, Arabella Weir, John Thomson and Caroline Aherne alongside Felix Dexter, Colin MacFarlane, Rhys Thomas and Tony Way
  • Horrible Histories – Education has never been so much fun, as the wickedly entertaining show featuring Simon FarnabyAlice LoweKaty Wix and many more makes a welcome reappearance.
  • Human Remains – The little seen anthology series featuring Julia Davis and Rob Brydon as a string of darkly comic creations.
  • Knowing Me, Knowing You // I’m Alan Partridge – Steve Coogan‘s masterful creation in three dynamite series of cringeworthy faux pas in the name of CHAT.
  • The League of Gentlemen – The show that launched the careers of Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton, and pioneered a darker and cinematic side to alternative comedy on television.
  • The Thick of It – The now infamous political comedy from Armando Iannucci starring Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison alongside Alex MacQueenRebecca FrontJustin Edwards and many more.


Plus a few other legendary shows with looser TVO connections:

  • Absolutely Fabulous – The recent specials featured Lucy Montgomery
  • Blackadder – Which featured an early appearance by Geoffrey McGivern in Series Three
  • Gavin and Stacey – Featuring a recurring role for Julia Davis
  • Live at the Apollo – Featuring several TVO guests over the years
  • The Office – Look out for Matt Holness in several episodes!
  • Sherlock – Featuring appearances by Alice Lowe and Tony Way
  • The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer – Arguably the finest sketch show of the 90s – and look out for a young Matt Lucas!

There’s also promise of a Steve Coogan collection (which may include the Paul Calf Video Diaries, Coogan’s Run and various other assorted classics).

And that’s just the start of it. We’ll give you a full run-down of everything that’s in the store as soon as we can. Until then – we suggest you head on over to BBC Store right now, and start digging!

Cast Of Aaaaaaaah! Ape About In New Video

31 Oct

A new promo film for Aaaaaaaah! has been released, which features members of the cast talking about their the film. As you might expect from Steve Oram, it’s not your run-of-the-mill ‘speaking heads’ promo.

Featuring Julian Barratt (with post-Mindhorn barnet), Sean Reynard, Julian Rind-Tutt, Holli Dempsey and Lucy Honigman, the promo includes short clips of the chicken sequence the Battenburg scene – two of our favourites moments in the film!

You can see it here:

Don’t forget you can watch Aaaaaaaah! in full on VOD via Frightfest here.

A Caravan, A Bear, And Housewife Horror: Alice Lowe Talks To The Velvet Onion

30 Oct
© imdb

© imdb

A few weeks ago we published Part 1 of our interview with Alice Lowe, in which she spoke about the third series of Alice’s Wunderland, which recently aired on Radio 4. In Part 2 of our interview, below, Alice talks to us about her other comedy projects – past, present and future – and the highs and lows of a career in the arts.

Alice and I meet shortly before she is due to stand in front of a cinema full of North London feminists and try to convince them that Glen Close’s character in 1987’s Fatal Attraction is a feminist icon. I wish her luck. Her chosen topic provides us with a few clues about what makes Alice Lowe tick: (1) She sees the world differently to most people; (2) She’s not the type to choose the the easy path; and (3) She has a special place in her heart for female villains.

“You don’t get many female villains,” Alice offers by way of explanation. “Political correctness has made people scared of portraying women negatively, so what you end up with are really boring characters for women, with no personality.” Here here!

© Press Association

© Press Association

One of the most high profile villains which she herself has played is Tina in Sightseers, the 2012 film which was both a critical and box office hit, seeing Alice and co-writer/co-star Steve Oram being courted by the great and good in the world of film. “Even now I’m still surprised – I think ‘did that happen?’ I’m not used to success – I’m used to doing my own stuff and no one giving a shit!” she laughs.

“For me it was a relief. As a comedian, you believe you should be getting a sitcom or your own show off the ground at some point. Both Steve and me were feeling like we hadn’t done our thing. It was a relief to have finally done something where you’ve made your mark.”

Sightseers was a long time in the making, with the characters of Tina and Chris having been developed several years before they were committed to celluloid. Alice describes the final production of the film as “a lot of lucky things coming together”, like the involvement of director Ben Wheatley, who was hot at the time (Mighty Boosh director, Paul King, who was originally linked to the project, was unable to direct the film because of his Paddington movie commitments at the time).

“People are generally looking for reasons not to make films,” Alice explains. “Because there isn’t enough funding for all of them. There needs to be something really special to get a film over that final hurdle and green lit – like a producer who’s had a lot of success or a director who can sweep it along.”

Right now she’s busy with a fast-turnaround film project, her directorial debut feature, provisionally titled Prevenge. The part-improvised film is best described as a ‘post-feminist revenge movie’ and features Alice as a pregnant woman on a killing spree (Alice herself is currently seven and a half months pregnant, so thankfully there will be no need for anatomically suspect padding). The mystery at the centre of the film is who she’s killing, and why.

Shooting starts imminently in Cardiff with a Welsh crew, who Alice describes as “a great team”, with her pregnancy providing the extra impetus to make quick progress. I ask whether any TVO-connected artists will be part of the project. “There will be a good few familiar faces on the film,” she says.  Watch this space…

Not one to put her feet up, Alice is also working on another film project, which she describes as “a dark comedy horror about a housewife”, inspired by the likes of Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining, films in which domestic situations become the premise for horror. She’s been working on it for a couple of years, hacking her way through the funding jungle which surrounds independent film making.

© Toy Drum

© Toy Drum

As she is for Prevenge, Alice will be taking writing, acting and directing credits. I ask her how she manages to juggle so many different,  significant roles within one production. “To me it doesn’t feel weird to be doing all of them,” she replies. “You wouldn’t say to a songwriter ‘Are you also going to sing this song? Are you also going to play the guitar?’ It’s just the way I approach what I do – it’s a more holistic thing; I’ve been lucky to be able to work in that way.”

“The people I tend to admire have a similar holistic approach to everything they do – people like Kate Bush and Bjork. I don’t think it’s that weird and I don’t think it’s that difficult – it’s hard work but not impossible.” She adds.

In fact, taking on several key roles on a project like this has its advantages, as Alice explains: “I could have put another actress in it, but it would have meant finding another person, making sure they understood what I was trying to do, making sure they were available. Then I thought hold on, I’m available! And I’ll be there on set every day, because I’m directing it.”

Alice in Sherlock © BBC

Alice in Sherlock © BBC

She notes that another benefit of writing, directing and acting is the confidence that it gives her as a performer: “When I’m acting other people’s stuff I can have huge doubts about my performance. But when I’ve written it I know exactly what it is, heart and soul. I understand it inside out. It’s something that’s not about words – it’s about a feeling. Getting someone else to that level of understanding is much harder.”

Furthermore, using non-comedy writers, directors and actors in comedy films can sometimes negatively impact on the humour quota. “People need to understand that they can trust comic talent to put laughs on the screen,” Alice notes. Indeed, we can all recall ‘comedy’ films which have failed for exactly this reason – because the studio chose household names over the people who know how to generate proper laughs.

Success and failure in comedy is a hot topic at the moment, with a number of unique, innovative projects from the wider world of comedy failing to land or being cut off in their prime. With ratings now the be-all and end-all for TV shows, the relationship between creative talent and commercial success can be hazy at best. It’s a situation that irks Alice: “In the past you would do a series, win some awards and your ratings would naturally go up. But one ‘trophy series’ isn’t enough any more – the second series has to get more. If your ratings stay the same or go down, they (the TV & film execs) think ‘what’s the point?’ So if you’ve done one film that isn’t huge you might never get to make a film again.”

We talk about one of the biggest recent movie successes from a TVO-connected talent – Paul King’s Paddington movie. A phenomenal critical and commercial success story, Paddington followed Paul’s low key first feature, Bunny & The Bull. Although loved by many critics and adored by fans of our kind of comedy, BATB failed to make its mark at the box office. It could have meant the end of Paul’s feature film career, but then Paddington came along; and the rest (as they say) is history. It would be a shame if second opportunities like this aren’t available to film makers in the future.

© Studio Canal

Alice in Paddington © Studio Canal

Paddington features a long list of TVO artists, including Alice herself. “It was a really nice thing that he did,” she explains, referring to Paul’s approach to making the film. “He got in a lot of his old theatre and comedy buddies to do read throughs. So before all these huge stars were attached to it I was reading Nicole Kidman’s part! Then he kept us on for all the small parts, even though he could have cast bigger names, or used the usual suspects, but he didn’t – he cast us lot!” Alice is full of praise for the final film, noting how Paul’s production flourishes raise it several notches above standard Hollywood blockbuster fayre. “It’s so good it feels effortless, but I know how much work Paul put into it.” She seems genuinely proud of him.

© Mog/The Velvet Onion

Club Fantastico © Mog/The Velvet Onion

Although Alice is focusing on film projects at the moment, I ask her whether she has plans to take to the live circuit again in the future. “Whenever I do it I’m absolutely terrified, until I do it again – and then I love it.” she says. “And I go ‘why don’t I do this all the time?’…then I don’t do it for a while and I get the fear about doing it again!”

“But I’m in my element on stage,” she explains. “You get the immediate impact and you have to think on your feet. If something’s not working you push it until it does, until you get that laugh – and I really enjoy that.” She pauses for a moment, then adds. “When people find out I do comedy they ask if I do stand up and I start to wonder if maybe I should. But stand up is a bit like chatting – and I can just do that anyway with my friends. My friends are really funny.”

Having spent an hour in Alice’s company discussing the vagaries of the world of entertainment, it’s clear how frustrating the rules of the game can seem to her. She has a natural tendency to question and challenge the status quo, and her place within it. She never comes across as grumpy, although she worries that she does; instead, hers is the drive to keep asking why?, or sometimes why not? It’s an attitude that seeps into her comedy and that of her peers; artists who subvert the norm and show us a different way of looking at the world, a different way of doing things.

“The people who are doing weird stuff seem to be older,” Alice observes. “The hot young things aren’t allowed to do surreal comedy. We had this natural punk ethos…” She checks herself and laughs, “Oh dear – I’m making myself sound really cool, and I’m not! It’s just the era that we grew up in; you naturally rebelled against it. And now you look at youtube and there’s someone talking about lipstick or cake. That’s what people want to watch now.”

As a fellow Generation X-er, I’m inclined to agree. And with that Alice bravely heads off to persuade a room full of Crouch End feminists to rethink everything they previously believed about 1980’s cinema.

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

The Velvet Onion would like to thanks Alice for her time. We wish her the best of luck with her many forthcoming projects!

Return of the Detectorists

24 Oct

BBC Four’s award-winning sitcom The Detectorists returns this month for a new six part series, with Simon Farnaby once again making an appearance.

© Channel X North / Treasure Trove / Lola Entertainment / Chris Harris

© Channel X North / Treasure Trove / Lola Entertainment / Chris Harris

Written and directed by Mackenszie Crook – star of The OfficePirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones – the show features Crook and Toby Jones (The Hunger Games, Frost/Nixon, Doctor Who) as metal detector enthusiasts in search of their hearts’ desire.

Farnaby – who also appeared in the first series – returns alongside Paul Casar as rival detectorist duo Garfunkel and Simon. Also along for the ride are Gerard Horan, Sophie Thompson and Rachael Stirling, plus the legendary Dame Diana Rigg.

The Detectorists returns on Thursday evening at 10pm on BBC Four. Episodes will be available on iPlayer shortly after transmission, and both series will be available on DVD together from 7th December. If you need to catch up before then, Series One is on iPlayer now.

Out On Mondaaaaaaaah!

17 Oct

If you’re a regular reader of The Velvet Onion, you’ll know that we’ve been getting more than a bit excited about Aaaaaaaah!, the comedy horror from Steve Oram, which stars a bevy of TVO faces. And now we can get excited again – because from Monday everyone will get the chance to see what all the fuss is about.

The film is available to pre-order from iTunes here for £9.99, and from Monday 19th you’ll be able to find it on a variety of other VOD platforms from FrightFest Presents, including Virgin Movies, Blinkbox, Google Play, Amazon, Xbox Video, Wuaki, Talk Talk and Volta. Thoroughly recommended!

In the meantime, why not occupy yourself with this podcast interview with Steve about the film:

If you’re a fan of Aaaaaaaah! and you haven’t wandered down these parts for a while, why not read our interview with Steve himself and our review of the film. And keep an eye out for our profile about one of the film’s stars too, which will be coming your way very soon…!

Return to Successville

14 Oct

BBC Three’s smash hit comedy series Murder in Successville is to return for a second series.

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

The show, which first aired earlier this year, features Tom Davis as rough, gruff, intellectual doorknob DI Sleet, presiding over a town filled with potentially murderous celebrities – all played by comedy talents.

The first series featured Cariad Lloyd as Darcey Bussell, Justin Beiber, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Miley Cyrus;  Colin Hoult as Jimmy Carr and Gary Barlow; Tom Meeten as Richard Hammond; Dan Skinner as Bob Geldof; Tony Way as Harry Styles and Harry Peacock as Niall Horan.

Also along for the ride were series co-writer Nico Tartarowicz as put upon fellow officer Sid, and a whole host of familiar faces – including Frances Barber, Ricky Grover, Jenny Bede, Luke Kempner, Chris Martin Hill, Nick Mohammed, Jason Lewis and a scene stealing Liam Hourican.

With music by Waen Shepherd, no less, acting as the cherry on top, it’s easy to see how we’ve got this far down the article without explaining the show’s ‘set-up’: each week a real celebrity plays rookie partner to DI Sleet, as they investigate a murder that one of three suspects is responsible for. It’s up to the guest to decide who to take down.

Rookies in series one included Dermot O’Leary, Louis Smith and Greg James – the latter of whom ended up making his own sitcom pilot, Dead Air, off the back of the fun he had on the show. And the fun, it seems, has been shared by viewers – with the show proving a hit on original transmission and a recent repeat run.

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

Now TVO can confirm that a second series – once again featuring Tom Davis, Tom Stourton, Colin Hoult and Cariad Lloyd (with more names to be confirmed) – will shoot in January. James De Frond (The Morgana Show) returns to the director’s chair, and we’ll bring you more news on Murder in Successville‘s return in the new year. Let’s go solve a crime!

Oram & Meeten Live Later This Month

8 Oct
© Pull the Other One

© Pull the Other One

Sadly, for us lovers of top notch comedy, Oram & Meeten‘s live shows are relatively rare. But now we can all rejoice, because the legendary duo are performing later this month!

Fresh from their starring roles in simian comedy horror AAAAAAAAH!, Steve and Tom will be live on stage at The Old Nuns Head Pub (15 Nunhead Green, London SE15) on Friday 30th October at 8:30pm.

They’re headlining the next ‘Pull the Other One’ bill, which also includes Louise Reay, Darren Maskell, Michael Lightyear and Lewis Blomfield (host).

If you haven’t seen Oram & Meeten live before, we implore you to go. It’s a Friday night, they’re stupendously good – and the opportunity to see them perform really doesn’t happen often enough.

Tickets cost £10 (+£1 booking fee) are are available here. Do it.

Peterford Golf Club Swings Again

5 Oct


Peterford Golf Club is being revived in brand new take on the cult classic for Radio Two.

Promising to do for golf clubs what Green Wing did for hospitals, this new sitcom incarnation of the long gestating project is written by its co-creator Simon Farnaby and stars Simon alongside Barunka O’ShaughnessyTom Meeten and Nathan Barley star Claire Keelan.

In it, Farnaby plays golf club regular Stuart, who has a chance of being appointed to the all-powerful committee, if only he can get his rival Bob out of the way. Meanwhile, players Chris and Jane are trying to rekindle their relationship, which has gone into the rough.

© Waen Shepherd / Moira O'Hara

© Waen Shepherd / Moira O’Hara

Longstanding TVO readers will recognise the name of the show, thanks to its historical significance within the annals of Onion Land. For the uninitiated, Peterford Golf Club started out as a sketch in Simon Farnaby and Waen Shepherd‘s 2001’s comedy night Animal Pie, before becoming the name of their two man stage sketch show the following year.

As well as birthing Gary Le Strange, the sketch night featured Farnaby and Shepherd as the titular golf club members, and while the concept fell onto the back burner for quite some time, it led to a one-off 18 minute pilot episode for E4 back in 2007.

© Channel X

© Channel X

Entitled Golf War, Shepherd took a back seat in this incarnation, as Farnaby joined forces with Rich Fulcher and Scott Murray to write the pilot, which also featured Matt BerryJohn Hopkins, Nina Conti, Gareth Hale and a theme tune arranged by Julian Barratt, no less.

In the televised version, Farnaby’s Stuart Oglivy was the foolish chair of a golf club, while Fuclher was his idotic subordinate Len. Matt Berry played the owner of a rival, swankier golf club adjacent to theirs, whilst Shepherd – who also scored the show – was gardener Bob.

Meanwhile, Hopkins cropped up as one of a trio of businessmen that Stuart was looking to impress with the help of a kidnapped Hale from Hale and Pace, and it was all very silly in the best possible sense.

Sadly, the broadcast was cut to just 13 minutes, and promptly forgotten about, though an extended version has been available on YouTube since the channel abandoned plans to make the show in early 2008.

It’s currently unknown if Waen Shepherd is involved in the new radio pilot, but whilst the show has a long linage, we’re considering this incarnation to be a new beast of its own design.

And the good news is, you can judge this for yourselves too – as the pilot will be recorded in front of a live studio audience later this month.

Recording takes place on Wednesday 28th October at 7:15pm at BBC Radio Theatre, and you can apply for tickets over yonder now. More news on Peterford Golf Club as we get it… stay peeled.

Madchester Pern

2 Oct

As we wait rather impatiently for the third series of Brian Pern, the team behind it have released a mini-episode online.

In it, Simon Day returns as Brian Pern – former frontman of prog-numpties Thotch turned activist and world-music inventor. In this installment, we find out about Brian’s divergence into the Manchester indie-music scene in the early 1990s, and his work with pioneering producer Luke Dunmore – played by the eternally wonderful Christopher Eccleston.

Once again written by Day with director Rhys Thomas, and featuring mad-fer-it cameos from Tony WayLucy Montgomery and Steve Burge, this is more vintage Pern, and will tide us over until the new series rather nicely.

It also gives us another excuse to share the sublime 2012 spoof The Second Second Coming, directed by Al Campbell (Newswipe, Man Down) and written by Nico Tartarowicz, and featuring a whole host of familiar faces.

As for Pern, he’ll back on BBC Four in the Autumn.

Hot Brew Live!

30 Sep
© Jimmy Crippen

© Jimmy Crippen

We love Hot Brew, so we were particularly excited to hear the news that they’re performing live again, after a brief hiatus.

The vegetable-obsessed prog folk duo will be playing at Stroud Valleys Artspace (4 John Street, Stroud GL5 2HA) on Friday 23rd October. Tickets are £5 in advance from Trading Post or £6 on the door (door at 8pm).

For those of you who haven’t encountered Oona and Crispin Wheatflake yet, we urge you to seek them out; they were one of the highlights of our live show a couple of years ago, and you can see why from the footage of their brilliant set below.

You may also notice that they bear an uncanny similarity to Alice Lowe and Antony Elvin, but rumour has it that this is entirely coincidental. We remain a tad unconvinced, however…

Here’s hoping that this one-off gig in the west country develops into more!

For more information visit the event Facebook page.


Noel Fielding Tour DVD Release

30 Sep

tumblr_nvi5wzATbn1tip4qxo1_540The DVD of An Evening With Noel Fielding, Noel Fielding‘s 2014/15 live show, will be released on 16th November and is now available to pre-order.

Priced at £12.50, the DVD features a recording of the live show (filmed in Australia), and a behind-the-scenes documentary by Joe Lynn, who accompanied Noel, Mike Fielding and Tom Meeten on the UK leg of the tour.

An Evening With Noel Fielding was applauded by fans and critics alike, so whether you were one of the lucky ones who saw the show and fancy some happy reminiscing, or if you weren’t and you simply want to watch some top drawer, inventive comedy – then get pre-ordering!

There are still a few tickets available for the forthcoming November/December UK dates; details and ticket information can be found here.



29 Sep

© Rook Films

The good folk at Rook Films have released a limited screen print run of the Aaaaaaaah! movie poster.

There are only 100 copies of the five-layer print made to celebrate Steve Oram‘s directorial debut. In case you’ve missed it, the film stars Oram alongside a cavalcade of TVO regulars: Noel FieldingJulian BarrattTom MeetenWaen ShepherdTony WayAlice LoweShelley LongworthWaen ShepherdSean Reynard and John Hopkins.

Also along for the ride are the brilliant Julian Rhind-Tutt, Holli Dempsey and the legendary Toyah Willcox.

We’ve sung the film’s praises, and a lot of you have fallen in love with it already. Now thwack a bit of it on your wall for good measure, while you still can!

Rave Reviews For Bill

26 Sep
© BBC Films

© BBC Films

Bill, the new feature film about the lost years of William Shakespeare’s life, from the team who brought us Horrible Histories, has been wowing critics. Inspired by her own visit to the cinema to see the film (which boasts a bevy of TVO faces), Velveteer Mog rounds up the recent Bill reviews (and adds a sprinkling of her own opinion for good measure):

Anyone familiar with the likes of Monty Python, Blackadder and Horrible Histories will testify to the fact that mashing together historical facts with the funnies can be a wonderful combination. Bill continues this fine tradition, while wearing its ancestral influences well. Best described as ‘Monty Python for 12 year olds’, the jokes come thick and fast from a strong cast, most of whom play multiple roles.

© BBC Films

© BBC Films

With high production values, tight, inventive story-telling and a phenomenal gag to screen time ratio, the result is hugely entertaining: funny, daft and clever. All the performances are excellent, but a special shout out should go to Simon Farnaby, who is a treat every time he’s on screen. Plus it was a joy to see so many of ‘our lot’ adding to the giggle quota: Rufus Jones, Justin Edwards, Richard Glover and Tom Meeten.

If there weren’t enough TVO faces on screen, we were lucky enough to see two more in the audience at our local cinema, in the form of James Cook and Julian Barratt. I’m delighted to report that they seemed to enjoy Bill as much as we did.

But don’t just take our word for it; here’s what the critics have had to say about Bill (click on the links to read the review in full):

The Guardian awards Bill 4 stars, describing it as exhibiting “hints of the Carry Ons, Blackadder and especially Python.” The Observer also gives 4 stars, saying, “Nicely balancing its historically literate gags with broad knockabout slapstick, Bill is a crowd-pleasing treat that should tickle audiences young and old alike.”

4 more stars from Time Out, who say, “Mathew Baynton’s plucky Bill, Jim Howick’s grumpy Marlowe and Ben Willbond’s testosterone-fuelled Philip II of Spain are all up there with vintage ‘Blackadder’.” Den of Geek also loved it, noting that “fans of the team’s previous work will not be disappointed here,” adding, “their speciality lies in combining the grandeur of the historical or the fantastical with pure silliness, creating a bathos which is amplified in Bill by the cinematic ambition of the project.”

Even the FT gave Bill a big thumbs up, saying, “This is a comedy. And a puckish, inventive, funny one.” And The Express called it “daft fun for all the family”. A very good thing in our book.

But the final word goes to one of my notoriously difficult-to-impress kids, who summarised the film as: “Very good, funny and a bit cheeky.” High praise indeed!

Bill is currently on general release in cinemas across the UK; check local listings for details.

© BBC Films

© BBC Films

Monster Tease

22 Sep

The Velvet Onion has received a copy of the brand new teaser trailer for forthcoming short film The Monster.

We first told you about the film back in March, when the production was awarded funding by Film London.

A comedy horror about an iconic monster who falls in love with his leading lady on the set of a dubious film as he tries to resurrect his once-successful career, the film features Sightseers and The Casual Vacancy star Richard Glover alongside Call the Midwife‘s Helen George, and up and coming actors Simon Cotton and Matt Slack.

© Film London

Written and directed by Forgery Club head honcho Bob Pipe and produced by Hen & Chickens guru James Wren, the film continues their longstanding association that has previously produced web series The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains and a little event called The Velvet Onion Live. Needless to say, we love ’em.

Furthering the TVO connections, Waen Shepherd continues building his impressive resume of scoring that has recently taken in the likes of The Ghoul and Murder in Successville.

Partially shot at Elstree Studios earlier this year, the film is a bold, dynamic short that marks the ever increasing talents of Bob Pipe as a director to be reckoned with. You’re going to love it.

We’ll bring you more information on screenings and release in due course. Until then, stay peeled.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,179 other followers