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19 Oct

This week sees the VOD release of Aaaaaaaah! – the full length directorial début of Steve Oram, in which he co-stars with a whole bevy of TVO regulars. Tom MeetenSean ReynardJulian BarrattNoel FieldingWaen Shepherd and many more crop up across 78 truly demented minutes, that take audiences on a dark, depraved journey into a world not too dissimilar to our own, except everyone talks – and acts – like primitive man.

© Rook Films / Lincoln Studios

© Rook Films / Lincoln Studios

Also along for the ride, is an actress close to the hearts of many we cover on these pages. An actress who has appeared alongside such luminaries as Laurence Olivier, Christopher Lee, Phil Daniels and Katharine Hepburn. An actress heavily associated with the works of acclaimed director Derek Jarman. An actress who has also had an expansive career as a television presenter, but most importantly, was – no, is – a bonafide punk-pop icon. And as such, this felt as good a time as any to give you a potted history of her musical endeavours.

First rising to prominence in the late 1970s, Toyah Willcox was one of a number of positive role-models for young women of the era. Here was a woman who did things her own way, and no-one was going to make her do things she didn’t want to do. After an aborted attempt at forming a band with fellow rising star Adam Ant imploded after recording only one song, Toyah formed her own band: Ninth Illusion, who soon changed their name to mirror their unique vocalist.

Signing to Safari Records in 1979, the band’s debut single Victims of the Riddle and six-track ‘Alternate Play’ record Sheep Farming in Barnet followed in quick succession in July and August of that year. Combining the vocal gymnastics of Willcox with crunching guitars, and in the case of Neon Womb some particularly guttural brass, the AP was enough of a success for it to be promoted to full length album status in Europe, and imports were changing hands at such speed that Safari followed suit in the UK.

As audiences grew, Toyah released a string of underground hits on a regular basis, shifting line-ups often as Willcox was pushed continually out into the limelight more than the others. Only founder member Joel Bogen remained a constant as the band landed in the mainstream with the smash-hit EP Four From Toyah, which featured a track called It’s A Mystery that Wilcox had to be persuaded to sing.

Following this, their third studio album Anthem narrowly missed the top spot, and more hits followed: I Want to Be Free and Thunder in The Mountains becoming anthems of the era. To this day, Willcox is adamant that if they’d followed up these hits with the track We Are – a rousing number which closed Anthem, they could have been headlining Wembley Stadium in no time, and judging by how many units they were shifting in 1982, it’s quite possible she’s right.

However, all good things must come to an end, and perhaps inspired by their sudden leap into the limelight, the band’s fourth album The Changeling came as something of a shock. This was a dark, gothic fantasy which – though sublime, and a top ten hit – failed to chime with audiences in quite the same way. In recent years, the record has become a cult favourite, filled with fantastical concepts, monsters, tree-dwellers and street warriors. Buy into The Changeling‘s world, and you’ve got an album to rival just about any ‘alternative’ record of the 1980s.

Yet the album’s lacklustre response signalled the end, and after one final album, 1983’s uneven Love is the Law, the band split later that year. Toyah Willcox was now a solo artist, and up for grabs to the highest bidder.

Her first standalone recording, Minx, was for an offshoot of CBS, who attempted to positioned Toyah as a pop icon, hiring teams of songwriters and signalling the end of her association with Joel Bogen. It failed. As did follow up album, Desire, for another label, though it did grant her a final chart hit with a cover of Echo Beach.

Since then, Toyah has continued doing things her own way. 1988’s groundbreaking experimental album Prostitute, all drum-loops, vocal-samples and challenging lyrics exploring womanhood, killed her mainstream pop career just as she was finding new success as a television presenter. Further albums followed until 1995, before Willcox began concentrating solely on the other sides of her career, seemingly bored of the studio-tour-studio-tour pattern to ever diminishing audiences.

Then in 2002, the unexpected happened: Toyah recorded a new EP. Little Tears of Love was a limited edition release, followed up by an expanded edition, Velvet Lined Shell. Made with three musicians who went on to form Sweet Billy Pilgrim, the record never bothered the mainstream but was a solid slice of Garbage-infused alt-rock, and began Toyah’s return to the studio, and the road.

Since then, she’s released another full length solo album in her own name (2008’s powerful In the Court of the Crimson Queen), and experimented with side projects This Fragile Moment and Family of Noise. Mostly, however, her musical endeavours have been focused in two directions.

Firstly, regular live tours with her long-term backing band pull in the nostalgic and the faithful for enthusiastic trips down memory lane. Playing a mix of classic tracks and newer favourites, Toyah bounces around the country for a mix of electric, acoustic and backing PA shows throughout the year, only stopping when the rest of her workload takes over.

And then there’s The Humans – the ambient rock band she formed with longterm collaborator Chris Wong and REM drummer Bill Rieflin. With three albums under their belt, the band are, like Toyah before them, underground critical darlings, doing things that sound like no-one else. And isn’t that exactly how it should be?

In fact, looking back over Toyah’s catalogue, some 36 years since Victim of the Riddle was released, it’s hard not to be struck by the sheer versatility of it all. There are those who only know It’s a Mystery. There are those who make pathetic jokes about the song revealing a little too much of Toyah’s lisp. These people are idiots, quite frankly, and don’t know what they’re missing.

Below, TVO’s humble editor – himself a died-in-the-wool Toyah fan since he discovered Brave New World in a box of 7″ singles at the age of six – has compiled a personal list of essential Toyah recordings. There are countless other tracks which warrant your attention, and with most of her back catalogue (1985’s Minx is conspicuous by its absence) now available on Spotify, there’s no better time to dig in.

Today, Toyah is still recording, and as the later tracks on this playlist demonstrate, she’s continuing to push herself into new territories. By that token, a film in which she speaks entirely in ape-like grunts is no real surprise: TVO isn’t quite sure what Olivier or Hepburn would make of it, but what better gift for an actress to lose all inhibitions and just go for it, as Aaaaaaaah! allows.

It’s also wonderful to see Willcox sharing the screen with comic actors who have admired her from afar for a long time. Never was this more apparent than in the creation of Alice Lowe’s glorious (and affectionate) Val Hallah pastiche, who first appeared in the short film Junglophilia (made by Lowe with Jacqueline Wright and Barunka O’Shaughnessy), and made a cameo appearance in Jackal Films This Christmastime several years later.

It’s not hard to see why she appealed to the kind of minds who populate our pages. In the early 1980s especially, Toyah’s music offered an alternative: fantastical realms amidst vocal histrionics and soundscapes a little too oddball for the mainstream to ever fully comprehend, in much the same way so much of the comedy on our pages has found its audience away from ‘Joe Public’. Like many of our regulars, Willcox has never really gained the mainstream appeal or, frankly, the respect that she not only deserves, but that her contemporaries (Bush, Sioux, Smith etc) get by the bucketload.

Whether this is due to her eclectic TV career post pop-success, or her uncompromising nature, we’ll perhaps never know, but those of us who have enjoyed her work for decades are slowly but surely being joined by new generations of fans.

And here’s an honest hope: with any luck Aaaaaaaah! will bring in a whole load of curious souls, and if just one of you reading this is intrigued enough to pick up an album or two, maybe we’ll see you down at the front on the next tour. Be proud, be loud, be heard. Because that’s exactly how Toyah would want it.

Aaaaaaaah! is available from iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Video now. For more info on Toyah’s music, tours and other activities, visit

Jacqueline Wright Joins Mentoring Scheme

10 Nov

© Film Directing For Women

Jacqueline Wright has been confirmed as one of 2014’s mentors for WFTV.

You’ll recall that Jacqueline graced our pages on a monthly basis in 2010 thanks to her collaboration with Alice Lowe on the awesome Jackal Films. WFTV is Women in Film & TV and is the leading membership organisation for women working in creative media in the UK.

Their Mentoring Scheme is designed for women who have more than 5 years experience working in TV, film or digital production. Over six months, selected participants receive six hours of contact with their mentor, combined with a programme of seminars, training workshops and networking opportunities. Sounds impressive, although sadly places for the January – June 2014 mentoring scheme have closed.

To see the company that Jacqueline will be keeping click here for the full list of 2014 mentors. To read more about what WFTV do take a look at this.


TVO Live Videos Part 7: Hot Brew

24 Jul

At long last, here’s the latest installment in our TVO Live video series!

For various boring reasons, it’s been a few weeks since we were able to bring you some footage from our inaugral live event which took place in May of last year, but now we can continue apace with some more great performances from our regulars!

That star studded event last year featured the likes of Dave Brown, James Cook, Antony Elvin, Stephen Evans, Suzy Evelyn Hall, Mike Fielding, Richard Glover, Alex Kirk, Alice Lowe, David McNeill, Tom Meeten, Steve Oram, Laura Patch, Richard Sandling, Holly Jane Shears, Rachel Stubbings, Will Summers, Dan Tetsell, Gareth Tunley, Dolly Wells and the disembodied voice of Rich Fulcher.

Now as we inch slowly towards putting on more events in the future, we’re showcasing footage from that glorious night of madcap fun.

This latest slice of lo-fi posterity is a whopping 16 minute set from the new-wave folksters Hot Brew.  First discovered in the Jackal Film, Roots, Oona & Crispin Wheatflake still look remarkably like Alice Lowe and Antony Elvin to us… what do you reckon?

If you missed our previous videos in the series, you can check them out via this handy playlist over yonder. We’ll be bringing you more footage from the event soon, and are currently in initial stages of planning more shows, so stay peeled for all the latest info as soon as possible.

Sightseers Spotlight On: Alice Lowe

1 Dec

As you’ve probably gathered by now, here at The Velvet Onion we’re more than a tad giddy about the UK release  of Sightseers. There are many, many things about the film that make it worthy of merit, not the least of which is the rather wonderful person who plays Tina, the female lead. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with her work, please allow us to introduce you to the writer-actor-comedian-singer-performer extraordinaire, Alice Lowe:

© Big Talk Pictures

If you’re a regular reader of TVO you’ll be aware of Alice’s more recent projects (of which there are many); what you may not fully appreciate, however, is how many seminal comedy happenings (and comedy people)she’s been involved with during her career.

Sightseers isn’t Alice’s first time in a feature film; she’s even played another Tina in a film before, in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz. Alice also appeared briefly in Ben Wheatley’s previous release, Kill List.

But let’s start back at the beginning, before the movie roles. Alice started out co-creating and performing in surreal experimental theatre shows such as City HauntsSnowbound and Progress In Flying Machines with David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Since she first graced our TV screens in 2004 in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace as Madeleine Wool/Dr. Liz Asher, Alice’s TV appearances read like a ‘Best of British Comedy’ roll call. There have been parts in the Mighty Boosh (as Monkey in Priest & The Beast), The IT Crowd (as Patricia in Fifty-Fifty), Snuff Box (as David Bowie), This is Jinsey (as Soosan Noop) and Man to Man with Dean Learner – plus roles in game-changing TV shows such as Little Britain, Pulling, Horrible Histories, Skins and Black Books, amongst others.

She also wrote and starred in E4’s overlooked comedy series Beehive (take a look here for our review of the show if you want to know more). Plus, she’s performed with the likes of Rob Brydon, Harry Enfield and Katy Brand in their various TV outings. So far so impressive.

© Jackal Films

For anyone unfamiliar with Alice’s comedy acting skills, for a quick immersion session we’d recommend a gander at Jackal Films creative output.  In 2010 Alice teamed up with director Jacqueline Wright to produce and release a short  film per month – that’s twelve shorts in total.

The quality and range of the films is truly impressive, as are Alice’s performances – take a look at them all here. You can also see some other shorts that Alice features in by clicking on this.

Impressive stuff, but one could argue that her talents are best experienced live, where her uncanny ability to portray the unhinged and yet also sing like an angel, really come to the fore. She was part of Ealing Live in the early/mid-2000s, an experimental comedy group where many of the UK’s finest (i.e. the artists that we write about) started their stand-up careers; take a look at the column on the right of this page and you can see who was involved.

Since then Alice has performed on stage with many of her contemporaries, and we’ve been lucky enough to see her live on a number of occasions, most recently at Oram & Meeten’s Club Fantastico, where she truly shone. Alice and her co-star in Sightseers, Steve Oram, also performed together during Steve Coogan’s 2007 tour, and some would argue that their supporting role, filling in between Coogan’s character changes, provided some of the funniest moments of the show.

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Vintage Sights: Top Ten Alice & Steve Moments On YouTube

30 Nov

Today marks the release of Sightseers into UK cinemas.  At long last, this brilliant film starring Alice Lowe, Steve Oram and Richard Glover can be shared by you all.  Directed by Ben Wheatley, we’ve gone bananas for it because it truly is brilliant and deserves your attention.  It opens in 92 cinemas nationwide, and it’s success this weekend will decide if it expands to further cinemas next week, so it’s crucial if you have a passing interest in the film, you go and see it now!

Of course, most of you will be more than aware of the work of Alice Lowe and Steve Oram before this film was released, but for those of you who are new to their genius, we thought we’d compile a handy list of easy-to-access clips from the Tube of You.  It’s been tough selecting only five each, but we think we’ve found you some absolute corkers.

© Eamonn McCormack/Getty Images Europe

© Eamonn McCormack/Getty Images Europe

All of these clips are either web-shorts, live clips or tv taster pilots which didn’t go to broadcast, which helped narrow the list down somewhat.  Obviously, they only scratch the surface of the great work the pair have been crafting for the past decade.  To truly experience their mastery, you simply must see them live at the earliest opportunity, and to find out when that next is, you’ll have to keep coming back here!  We’ll be keeping you posted on any appearances they make, so pop back every now and then to find out more.

If that’s too long a wait, you can browse their ‘videographies’, as it were, via our TVO webstores.  Both run by Amazon on our behalf, we have dedicated sections for every artist we feature in a UK and US store – and both will ship internationally too.  For Alice’s stuff, visit here for UK, and here for US – and if Steve’s your bag, visit here for UK, and here for US.

Now to the top ten! Continue reading

Stubbing Out Live!

8 Feb

© Rachel Stubbings

Part of the joy of The Velvet Onion for those of us working on it is that we get to shout about comics who haven’t had the masses of attention some of our regulars have received… yet!  One such talent is Rachel Stubbings, who we have been keeping a close eye on since her involvement in Jackal Films‘ glorious two-hander Love Song in 2010, and her involvement in Alice’s Wunderland pilot last year.

TimeOut have suggested she is “destined for greatness” and The List have called her writing innovative, and it’s not hard to see why.  Now Stubbings, whose internet show Stubbing Out has also featured the likes of Alice Lowe and Tom Meeten, is using Stubbing Out as a platform from which to craft her first full length stand-up show ready for Edinburgh 2012.

In this live re-imagining of the show, Rachel acts as scenester, muse and agony aunt to her patients – including the likes of Alistair Green, Nathan Williams and Sam Paphilon – sorting out problems with her prophetic skills and pearls of wisdom.

The first preview night for the show takes place at legendary venue, The Hen And Chickens on February 16th – and it’s followed by a show at the equally fab Camden Head on February 29th.  Tickets are available directly from the venues.

You can see one of the Stubbing Out webisodes, featuring Luxury Comedy star Tom Meeten, below.

Talking About Tom

29 Jan

© E4

Tom Meeten is currently entertaining us in roles as diverse as Andy Warhol, Daran Cache and a fruit fly in Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy.  TVO’s Afroharold sheds a bit of light on his rich and varied career to date…

Whilst many comedy fans know him best for his work with Steve Oram, for a lot of Velvet Onion readers he will forever be identifiable thanks to his roles in The Mighty Boosh.  His first appearance on the series is in Fountain of Youth, as Pepo the artist who kills himself when Vince isn’t impressed with the fringe on his portrait.


He later appeared as the disreputable Lance Dior in the third series’ The Power of the Crimp. A near perfect clone of happy-go-lucky Vince, he and his jazzy Northern sidekick Harold Boon (Simon Farnaby) memorably fought Vince & Howard in an epic Crimp Off. Later, the character reappeared at The Royal Albert Hall, attempting to replace Vince at the opening of Noel Fielding’s Teenage Cancer Trust comedy night.

Casting Tom as Lance Dior was an inspired move as he has a similar  take on acting as Noel, an attractive man who is willing to make himself unattractive to the point of grotesque to bring a character to life. No one could call the fruit fly in Luxury Comedy attractive! Tom’s comedy partner is also a bearded bloke from somewhere north of London!

© Andy Lane

Away from the Boosh, Tom’s most notable collaboration has been with the aforementioned Steve Oram – himself no stranger to Vince Noir, having played Donny the Tramp in The Strange Tale Of The Crack Fox.   After a string of successful live shows, including memorable turns at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the pair crafted a television pilot together for Comedy Lab and posted a string of sketches on YouTube including cult classic Porto & Roy.

In 2011, Oram & Meeten developed a new pilot show for So Television, entitled The Forgotten Picture Show, joined by a huge cast of TVO favourites in a pitch perfect homage to 50s rock-n-roll movies.  The pilot is currently under development with plans to make a full series, and we at TVO can’t wait to see the results.

Collaborations with other names at TVO are frequent – from appearances in Jackal Films with Alice Lowe, such as the stupendously silly Birdhandler to his work with James Bachman and recently Arnab Chanda on sketches for BBC Nought – including a truly inspired turn as Jools Holland!

© Channel 4

He has also appeared in a number of other notable shows from the TVO stables, including The IT CrowdHow not to Live Your Life, Saxondale, Lifespam and Beehive. He also made an everlasting impression in Blunder on Channel 4 as the surreal evil known as The Baron and the stupendously rude Karate Johnson. Although studio executives were impressed with his work on Blunder, he still hasn’t been given the opportunities his talents deserve to showcase them to a wider television audience.

Last year, following cameo appearances in Magicians and Burke & Hare, he played his first major leading role in a film via lo-budget Manchester rave scene flick Weekender, and he is set to appear in Oram & Lowe’s forthcoming film The Sightseers too.

As you can see Tom is a very talented actor, singer, writer and comedian, who has appeared in a variety of roles and is not afraid to wear outrageous costumes to complete a character. So if you were watching Luxury Comedy and wondering where you’ve seen him before, now you know!

A Not-So-Summery 2011…But Here’s A Summary Of July-Sept

4 Jan

When you think of last summer, what do you think of? Rain? Rioting? Well don’t think about that – if your memory fails you, first have a look at our reviews of January to June, and then let’s take a look at what happened in the world of Booshdom from July to September, in Part 3 of our review of 2011...


© Watch

2011 may have been a dreary and somewhat brief summer, but July kicked off with some magic as Dynamo showed off his skills to Noel Fielding, stunning him with a rogue deck of cards right in the palm of his hand!

The comedy world also saw acts big and small peeking out into the non-sunlight as they prepared for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! It was a busy month for comics, including Rich Fulcher who arranged warm ups left right and centre. As they all profusely scribbled down their work in the build-up to the festival, the musical Booshdom also picked up its pace. Robots In Disguise released their fourth album (funded by their fans!) Happiness vs Sadness. We were eager to listen to it ourselves and bring you a song-by-song evaluation of it.

© Becky Johnson

IAMX were also in the midst of releasing their new single Bernadette and at the same time brought us two alternative versions of the music video – we would expect nothing less from perfectionist Chris Corner!

This summer was also a lucky time for the Velvet Onion in terms of tracking down some great talent. We attended a Q&A with the cast of How Not To Live Your Life, then Richard Ayoade also answered some of our questions following the release of Submarine. Then there was even more excitement with the release of our chat with the delectable Hot Brew!

Someone who’s also always up for a debate is Steve Coogan, who voiced his opinions on Newsnight this month regarding the recent closure of News Of The World!

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Spring Back In Time: A Look Back At April-June 2011

2 Jan

So far our review of 2011 has covered January to March. Today we bring you the sequel: April to June. Aaaah, Springtime…the time of fresh starts and new beginnings! And it turned out to be a very busy time in the Booshniverse too!



April started with the news of Chris O’Dowd’s appearance in The Crimson Petal and The White, a Victorian drama adaptation miles away from The IT Crowd! It was a fantastic production with a great cast and Chris was excellent in it.

The London Comedy Writers Festival took place this month, with input from TVO favourites Alice Lowe, Jaqueline Wright and Colin Hoult. It was a very busy month for Alice, she starred in  Tap at the Window, appeared with Antony Elvin at Popcorn Comedy, and had the pilot  Alice’s Wunderland broadcast on BBC Radio 4. At the time we were lucky to bag an interview with her which you can read here. We also reviewed Jackal films 2010 calendar project.

Colin Hoult announced the second New Adventures show and Paul Foot was in Australia, tweeting as he went.

TVO enjoyed a bit of a spring clean itself in April with a revamp of the TVO Amazon store, making it even easier to cater for all your comedy needs!

Continue reading

The Velvet Onion Calendar 2012

29 Dec

The Velvet Onion are pleased to bring you our exclusive 2012 calendar!

We’ve been working with a number of our friends both in front of the camera and behind it, to bring you twelve great shots to print out and stick up on your wall between January 1st and December 31st.

With a fantastic new design from one of our own Velveteers, inspired by the beautiful design work Peeler Kerrie Leisch provided for the site back in 2010, we really hope you like the results – which are available for a free download by clicking on the picture above!

Thank you to everyone involved, and to all of you – our dearest Peelers – for a truly fantastic 2011… here’s to another great year in the realm of the Onion!

Soho Later This Weekend!

16 Nov

© Soho Theatre

There will be two (not one but two!) Booshniverse artists performing at the Soho Theatre on Saturday night.  Soho Later is hosted by comic Sarah Kendall (JackalFilms) and features comedy, cabaret acts and special guest stars.

This week’s show includes Pros from Dover featuring Richard Glover. In fact both Glover and Kendall have a JackalFilms connection as they’ve both appeared one of the 2010 films by Jacqueline Wright and Alice Lowe.  Glover was in Pebbles and Kendall appeared in My Old Baby.

The show starts at 11.30pm and takes place in the theatre’s downstair’s venue, described as “20s Berlin meets 50s New York meets 21st Century Soho.” Ooh! For more information and to book tickets click here.

The Terror Of A Missing Barratt

24 Oct

We’ve previously mentioned that Julian Barratt would be contributing to Soho Theatre’s annual Halloween show Terror, which begins later this week.

© Soho Theatre

However, we’re sorry to have recently discovered that Barratt is no longer involved in Terror 2011. Apologies to anyone who has purchased tickets based on our previous announcements, although we’re confident that you’ll enjoy the performance nevertheless. Based on reports from previous years, Terror provides the perfect terrifying evening for this time of year!

Soho Theatre has an array of other terrific acts for you to see for the next few months, and we hardly know where to start with their ever expanding list. In addition to Terror 2011 (which includes a special appearance from one half of the fabulous cabaret act Frisky & Mannish and Laura Corcoran) you can also see the recently reviewed Stuart Silver, letting you inside his brain-space until 29th October.

Then there’s also Soho Later, with Sarah Kendall (who you may recognise from JackalFilms‘ Beehive), the magnificent Tim Key, for a few dates at the end of this year, and also Stewart Lee (who needs no introduction to fans of the Booshniverse!), who can be found expressing himself there from November until February. Carl-Einar Hackner (pictured), a Swedish version of Tommy Cooper, who left us dazed and astounded at a past Fulchfest, will also be performing at the theatre next month.

Furthermore, Booshdom’s own Paul Foot will be a part of Set List which will be running through-out December. The show is described as “A Whose Line Is It Anyway?-style challenge for stand-up comedy” and features big names such as Tim Minchin, Rich Hall, Phill Jupitus!

We have only just scratched the surface of what can be found at this small but famous venue, so don’t be sad about a lack of Barratt – and book yourself a seat to one of many other brilliant shows!

Death To The Forgery Club

8 Oct

© The Forgery Club

The final Forgery Club is set to take place at The Albany later this month.

The semi regular club night has played host to a number of TVO favourites since its inception in February last year (not long after our own launch!), including a memorable takeover from Hot Brew with help from Steve Oram, Colin Hoult, Stephen Evans and William Summers earlier this year.

Sadly the time has come for The Forgery Club to bow out in style, and the final show on October 21st will do exactly that.

Yet again a selection of familiar faces are on hand. Gareth Tunley teams up with his sporadic comedy partner Alex Kirk, and Mongrels star Rufus Jones will also be on hand to amuse the punters.

With an appearance by comic Rachel Stubbins (Jackal Films) and names such as Jamie Glassman, The Real MacGuffins and Nathaniel Tapley on the bill, The Forgery Club aim to go out with a bang.

You can find out more about the full line-up and details over at the Facebook Event page and sharp-eyed peelers might spot the little promise that “All will be revealed Oct. 21st”.

With that mysterious comment, how can you not be tempted? So do not miss out on this monumental event and make your way to the Lowdown at The Albany on the 21st.

TVO Meets Hot Brew – Part One: Deal, Or No Deal?

28 Jul

TVO is proud to bring you a video exclusive with Hot Brew!

© Becky Johnson / The Velvet Onion

Since being the subject of a JackalFilm last year, Oona & Crispin Wheatflake have appeared on many a bill alongside familiar TVO faces, and as such, we felt compelled to ask them some questions.

Our meeting took place a few short weeks ago, as our mutual acquaintances Alice Lowe and Antony Elvin persuaded the mythical folk-legends to talk to us about their lives, their beliefs, and their forthcoming appearances across the land.

You can see the first half of our resultant exploits below:

We are also pleased to confirm that Hot Brew will be making a special one-night only appearance at the Edinburgh Festival as part of a one-off Forgery Club excursion to the city.

Offering the best sketch, character & musical comedy in all of Edinburgh, the night promises treats, dancing and lots of surprises. Oh, and possibly a sacrifice.

Guests will be announced soon, but we can confirm this event takes place on “the night before the day everyone has off” – at exactly midnight on August 14th/15th, at The Belly Laugh, Underbelly, Cowgate.

For more info,  attach your lizard-suckers at the Facebook event page – and we’ll hopefully bring you further news alongside part two of our exclusive chat, very soon.

A Jackal Brew

1 Jun

© Jackal films

If any of you peelers are passing the Cube cinema in Bristol at the end of this fresh month of June, you’re in for a treat as there will be a screening of some Jackal shorts, accompanied by a chat with Alice Lowe and director Jacqueline Wright!

As many of you will know, Jackal Films have built up a large portfolio of comedy shorts after vowing to post a film online at the start of each month. Now, with many of these hilarious sketches under their belts, they’re a group with much knowledge to share on the subject of filming on a budget, working to a deadline and comedy writing.  They can answer questions on these and many other burning topics that aspiring auteurs or performers out there may have.

And speaking of knowledge – along with the Jackals, Hot Brew, who are Alice Lowe and Antony Elvin under the guises of earthy pair Una and Crispin, will also be performing and sharing with their audience a “special blend of folk muesli”.

This is a lucky treat for anyone who can attend – you can see all this on Saturday June 25th for just £7! For more information and to book your tickets, look no further than right here.

For anyone that can attend, we’d love to hear back as Bristol is just out of the Velveteers reach so report back to us peelers!

A thank you to Mr Hopkinson for pointing us in the direction of this event.  

Listen To Wunderland!

21 Apr

© Jimmy Crippen

The moment our international peelers have been waiting for is here – you can now listen to Alice’s Wunderland on BBC iPlayer!

The pilot, written by and starring Alice Lowe alongside a host of TVO regulars, aired on Radio 4 on Thursday night at 11pm – and is absolutely hilarious.  We won’t spoiler you much, but in a world where you can buy celebrities, people turn into insects, meter-men meet an untimely end, foxes carry handbags and the insanity of Jason is allowed to roam free, you’re in for a real treat.

The show will now be available on iPlayer for the next seven days and as its radio, it should be available worldwide, so sit back, froth up, and dilate your earlobes with Wunderland right here!

If you missed it, you can catch TVO’s interview with Alice about all things Wunderland right here.

Alice’s WunderFilms

21 Apr

© Jackal Films

Tonight on Radio 4, Alice Lowe invites you all to visit Alice’s Wunderland.

In light of this, Velveteer Mog elected to take a quick look back at the work of Alice & Jacqueline Wright’s Jackal Films throughout their 2010 Calendar Project.  Below is her personal review.

In 2010 comedy writer and performer Alice Lowe and director Jacqueline Wright released a film per month under the guise of  Jackal Films – that’s twelve shorts in total. Although we announced each of their monthly releases as they came out last year, we reckoned Jackal Film’s achievement was due a retrospective.

My original plan was to take notes while I watched each film, in an attempt to identify and record the most salient points about each one. “January: silly + brilliantly done” was as far as I got before I got utterly sucked in, forgetting to write anything else.  Luckily I may have nailed it in one statement: “silly + brilliantly done”  is a pretty accurate description of what Jackal Films is all about.

© Jackal Films

The silliness comes from Alice Lowe’s surreal, unhinged performances.  She inhabits each character completely and then pushes it as far as it can go. Then she pushes it some more, somehow still managing to avoid caricature. Thanks to the delicate nuances of each performance and Jacqueline Wright’s perfectly-pitched unintrusive direction, the characters Alice plays are bizarre and extreme, yet at the same time strangely credible.  In March’s film, The Birdhandler, Alice isn’t someone pretending to be a bird; she is a bird.

© Jackal Films

Women who look a certain way are expected to behave in a certain way on TV, and when they don’t it’s incredibly refreshing. There’s something inherently funny about an attractive woman (as Alice is) not taking herself seriously – by some way!  I’m not sure if Jackal Films will care for the comparison, but it’s arguably what defined the funniest moments on ‘Smack the Pony’. Simply put, watching women being silly, when they could easily get away with just being simpering or sexy, is terrific fun!  August’s Celeberama is a testament to that.

Continue reading

Alice’s Wunderland: Through The Onion Glass

18 Apr

© Jimmy Crippen

This week sees the premiere of the brand new radio pilot from the brain of TVO’s fairy godmother, Alice Lowe.

Bringing together a whole host of familiar names in a late night audio treat, the pilot will be broadcast this Thursday, April 21st on BBC Radio 4.

In the run-up to the show, TVO were lucky enough to talk to Alice about the fantastical adventure she has in store for listeners…

Hi Alice! Welcome back to TVO.  First off then, what can you tell us about Wunderland?

I think it’ll be up your street! It’s quite fantastical, but with a gritty side to it. There’s a magical realism quality to it too. There’s a line in the script that says it’s the Poundland of magical realms. Wunderland is very weird but set in our world, with familiar references – imagining if magic did exist how jaded would it be by now?

It’s a sketch show, and it’s going to be ‘a little bit wacky’, she says in inverted commas! I wanted to do something a bit more imaginative, and go against the stereotype of what people expect from Radio 4. I wanted to do something that was about sound, and be experimental.

Wunderland itself is a place. It’s a fictional town where anything can happen. It’s a very British town… a bit dirty round the gills, with an air of dilapidation and pretension.

I wanted to do something that was quite magical, and transported you somewhere new. I’ve been thinking about hypnotism tapes, and how sound can transport you into a different place if you listen to it in a certain way. I kind of want people to listen to Wunderland in a darkened room! Get some sensory deprivation going…

Are we in for a real audio experience then?

There are a couple of songs in there, and some weird soundscape ideas – which I’d want more of if it went to series… fingers crossed!

I wanted music to be a big part of it, so I got Jane Watkins involved. She’s composed music for a lot of the short films I’ve done, so she came on board as my consultant and composer for this. What’s really strange is that you think being radio that music would be really important, but its quite common not to have the budget for new music.  I think that was one of my more diva-ish demands to Radio 4! Continue reading

The Many Faces Of Wunderland

17 Apr

Alice’s Wunderland is set to air this coming week, and here at TVO we wanted to give you a little teaser about what to expect.

The sketch show pilot is the brainchild of its star Alice Lowe, and there are a number of familiar faces from the wider world of Booshdom involved.

These include the ever reliable Antony Elvin – one half of Hot Brew, former Circulus percussionist, talented singer songwriter in his own right and one time guest star in The Mighty Boosh [“It’s a glowstick, you berk!”]  The folktastic pairing of Hot Brew – set to grace the stage at Popcorn Comedy in Birmingham this week – will be featuring in the show.

Also along for the ride is Clare Thomson, whom you may recognise from Alice’s last major sketch-show project, Beehive, as well as being one of Herman’s 1000 Wives in Lifespam and featuring in last year’s cult comedy short Dead Happy.

© Bruno Vincent

Two Jackal Films stars – Richard Glover [Pebbles] and Rachel Stubbings [Love Song] are also on board.  Glover’s varied cv has also included a guest appearing in The Mighty Boosh [in The Chokes episode] and appearing in Lifespam, whilst stand-up comic and actress Rachel Stubbings presented the Jackal Films night at the FD4W Film Festival last Autumn.

And that’s not all… as there are also performances from Olivier Award winning actress Marcia Warren, who appeared in Jam & Jerusalem with TVO’s very own Simon Farnaby, and the legendary Simon Greenall who has several Booshy links but is perhaps best known as both hapless Geordie Michael in I’m Alan Partridge and as being the voice of Alexander Orlov in the Compare The Meerkat adverts!

It’s safe to say then that this is an extremely talented cast, under the more than capable hands of one of the most gifted comic minds on the planet.  Promising a trip round Wunderland, “the Poundland of magical realms” – the pilot will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 11pm on Thursday 21st April.  It will be available on iPlayer for one week afterwards, and TVO hopes you’ll all tune in for what promises to be something pretty damn special indeed.

Learn From The Best At The LCWF!

4 Apr

© Bruno Vincent, Colin Hoult/Dawn Sedgewick Management, Jacqueline Wright, Mrs Popper, London Comedy Writers Festival

The London Comedy Writer’s Festival has announced the full schedule for the event next weekend, and at last we can confirm what involvement TVO’s favourites will have!

The main draw if you want to learn from our regulars will be Sunday’s schedule, which features a session with Alice Lowe and Jacqueline Wright entitled Shortcuts To Screenwriting.  This will allow the Jackal Films duo to share some of the secrets which got them through the grueling but rewarding Calendar project last year – in which they wrote, filmed and edited a short film every month with hilarious results.

Also on the Sunday is a very exciting opportunity indeed: a chance to take part in collaborative projects with a number of comics, including our very own Colin Hoult!  First is a session on Collaborating With Performers, and this is followed by a Topical Sketch Workshop: a practical session involving a chance to brainstorm ideas and write your own sketch, which will be performed at the end of the session.  For this, Colin will be joined by the talented Sarah Pascoe [Free Agents, The Thick Of It] and Max Dickins [Dregs].

To make this even more enticing – if promising material is created, the head of the London Festival Fringe, Greg Tallent, will be on hand to help develop and produce your work and possibly include it in a show for the London Fringe in July!

The TVO links don’t end there, either.  Saturday’s schedule will feature a talk from Jessica Hynes & Stephen Mangan sharing their comic writing and acting tips whilst Robert Popper will be teaching you what they don’t teach you at Comedy Writing School.

BBC Comedy director Natalie Bailey [Time Trumpet, Dick And Dom’s Funny Business, BBC Comedy Online] will be on hand to help explain how to write for the biggest possible audience, and one of the people responsible for getting The Mighty Boosh onto our tv screens in 2004, Lucy Lumsden is also on hand to discuss comedy drama alongside veteran producer Jon Plowman.  Lumsden is now Head of Comedy at Sky, which makes her responsible for the recent Little Crackers series and the comissioning of forthcoming cult sketch show This Is Jinsey which is set to feature Alice Lowe – so its fair to say she’s on our side when it comes to appreciating great comedy!

Finally, IT Crowd writer and script-editor Andrew Ellard is moderating a discussion with Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor about the decisions facing writers looking to make a pilot of their concept – and when all of this is factored into the numerous other discussions, networking opportunities and practical workshops on offer, the LCWF is looking more exciting than ever!

You can see the full schedule on the LCWF website, which also lets you buy tickets for the festival.

As mentioned recently, the organizers of this incredible event have very kindly offered us a special ticket offer for any of our readers who fancy going along.

Tickets for the entire weekend usually cost £149, but TVO is able to offer you a £25discount, AND the LCWF team will very kindly donate £5 to Comic Relief for every ticket we sell!

To purchase tickets with our discount attached, visit their official website and enter the promotional code:


The festival promises to be a great event, and we’ll hopefully be bringing you further coverage of our TVO flavoured acts involved in the run-up to the weekend.  If any of our peelers take up this fantastic offer, please contact us as we’d love to hear from you!

For the full list of speakers, see this earlier peeling.


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