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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!

Thanks For The Memories

5 Feb

Celebrating our 5th birthday this week has caused us to get a wee bit nostalgic. So we thought we’d collate some of those “Do you remember when?…” reminiscences into a Best of the first 5 years of TVO. It’s not a comprehensive overview of everything we’ve done, more a subjective account of a few of those ad hoc moments that made us feel warm, fuzzy and just a bit excited.

The favourite moments are different for all of us; sometimes it’s the memory of the event behind the article; sometimes it’s because we nailed an exclusive or wrote something that generated a huge amount of traffic for the website (one post last year generated over 13,000 unique visits in one day, fact fans!), and often it’s the buzz of being able to share something new, exciting and special with you, our readers. So here are a few of the happenings which have brought a smile to our faces over the past 5 years: 


© Paul Holmes

© Paul Holmes

There are so many glorious memories to treasure. There’s one particular Forgery Club that will forever be in my mind, presented by Hot Brew, and featuring a rare performance by Brown Jenkin (Colin Hoult & Stephen Evans), an appearance by The Mighty Thor and loads more. We were sat talking to Steve Oram before the show, and he noted that he’d never made it big because he liked to do things that broadcasters don’t know what to do with… then went on to give the audience an epic, ten minute long version of “Mary“. To this day, I can’t get a cab in London without thinking: “I will not go South of de river.”

I was particularly proud of the Mongrels takeover in November 2011, as various people being very busy meant I did that one pretty much solo, but was riddled with a genuine (and full blown) flu after arranging interviews with the whole cast and creator Adam Miller! I managed to salvage the interviews, strike up positive relationships with every single one of the team I spoke to which continue to this day, and fix up a wodge of behind the scenes stuff AND a competition to win DVDs of Series One, despite being unable to stand up or focus on a screen for more than a few minutes at a time. If you click here and scroll down, you can see everything.

Another good one to mention is Zimbani, which came to my attention early on in the life of TVO, when Dave McNeill & Colin Hoult emailed me to enthuse about their new show featuring Julian Barratt. It was the first time anyone had come to me direct outside of casual chatter, and really began expanding our world for the first time. Colin later made my partner, and occasional TVO designer, Lauren, get down on all fours and pretend to be a pig in front of Simon Amstell. Now that was a strange moment.

Then again, there’s many of those. Getting accidentally lost for a moment in a strange building behind the London Palladium with Isy Suttie at a screening of Alice Lowe‘s People Place. Similarly, getting trapped in a lift with Mike Fielding and an old lady who refused to let anyone else press the buttons to get us out of this chaos. And then there’s that strange bar James Wren led a motley post-Spank crew along to that felt like something out of a Bond film, somehow managing to stay glamorous at 3am. It’s been a funny old time.  But above all else, it’s just been nice to be welcomed into the fold of this wonderful group of friends and collaborators, and be trusted to give them everything I can to help their work reach a wider crowd. Let’s keep doing it, eh?


Having been involved in TVO since the very early days makes picking a favourite moment is a real challenge – but this one was pretty special: In 2011 Dave Brown was putting together Noel Fielding‘s art book Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton. They needed one last thing to finish it off before it was sent to the printers, and they contacted us to provide it. We were able to offer our readers the opportunity to have a photograph of their faces painted over by Noel and included in the book. A double page spread of your lovely faces appeared in the book when it was published, alongside the caption ‘MY TINY CHILDREN’. A wonderful show of their appreciation for the fans, and something which we were delighted to facilitate on their behalf.

© Noel Fielding/Dave Brown

Our Sightseers take-over was pretty special too (click here and scroll down). We had no idea it would become such a cult hit at the time, and it was great to be able to support so many of ‘our lot’ (Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Richard Glover Tom Meeten) with a week of exclusives.

© Big Face Productions

On a personal level, getting to know a few of the people who we write about – and discovering that they’re damned nice people as well as being unbelievably talented – has been a privilege.

A particular high point has been getting to know Hoppo. Introduced to me at Club Fantastico as “the only man to have survived Old Gregg”, John Hopkins turned out to have a TVO pedigree as long as his (long) arms, being part of the original Ealing Live gang and having worked with half of the people that we cover. He’s also lovely. If you don’t know who he is, we urge you to read our interview/profile about him and check out his stuff.


There are lots of brilliant moments I could mention, but as a fan of Hayden Black, it’s been a pleasure getting the chance to spread the word about him. I guess I’ve become our resident expert on Hayden’s creative and comedic output; take a look at this to find out more.


The moment that stands out in my mind is Fulchfest (Rich Fulcher‘s legendary comedy night in Kentish Town). I’d say that was the most fun I could have. This Pete Heat video that we filmed summarises it perfectly:

I’ve also had some brilliantly fun nights at Dan Clark gigs – often with Mog. Here’s a review of one of them.

© Mog


I think my favourite moment is the Zappa Plays Zappa gig at the Camden Roundhouse, with The Mighty Boosh Band as support. Being surrounded by odd men with moustaches while weird music was playing… and then rushing across town to a Rich Fulcher gig – where all the familiar faces already were. It was a perfect blend of what started it all and the new direction TVO had pushed us all in.


Seeing the Boosh warm-up gigs in 2013 was great, and it was lovely going to Soho Theatre as part of the TVO team. It was brilliant to see them on stage together again, in a lovely small venue, with the magic between them there as if they’d never gone away. The review was great too!

I loved going to see the Inside No. 9 preview at the BFI. It’s now one of my favourite pieces of TV and seeing it in the cinema was really special.


Being involved in filming TVO Live was one the most fun shoots I’ve done, but also the toughest because it was so difficult holding the camera still due to my laughter! We couldn’t have wished for a better line up. Fingers crossed for a TVO Live 2!


My favorite TVO memory is of when I interviewed Rich Fulcher in LA. I hadn’t done anything like it before, and he was so funny and generous! I admire Rich so much, and it was wonderful that he was everything he seems to be and more. A truly funny man.


The Luxury Comedy coffee competition was great, because it encouraged people to create something artistic. And I loved the series of Noel Fielding interviews to celebrate his birthday, which featured questions from our readers:

So there you have it – a sprinkling of very happy memories from a few of us. A big TVO thank you to the artists who we write about, who have provided us with these highs and who make it all possible. And thanks too to you, for being interested enough in what we do to come with us on our journey to the outer reaches of the comedy universe. It’s been quite a ride so far…

Wear Your Favourite Film

11 Oct

© Last Exit to Nowhere

Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of seeing a few of the people that we write about appearing in some pretty awesome films. But what’s been missing until now is the ability to wear creative interpretations of those films emblazoned across our chests. Not any more…

Last Exit to Nowhere is a small collective of film enthusiasts and creative designers. They  collaborate to create unique hand screen printed T-shirts that pay homage to memorable places and characters in cinema history. And we’ve uncovered some great designs with a TVO flavour:

A personal favourite is this design on above (awesomely titled “Death has a ginger beard”), which pays homage to Ben Wheatley‘s Sightseers (written by and featuring Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, just in case it’s managed to pass you by). It’s available in regular and slim fit for £20 by clicking here.

You can also have the pleasure of wearing another Wheatley-directed film on your body, in the guise of this A Field In England t-shirt, also £20. Or a Hot Fuzz-inspired design like this ‘Neighbourhood Watch Alliance’ design.

If you needed any further TV-connected reason to pay the site a visit, Chris O’Dowd fans can also express their love of Cuban Fury by donning this El Corazon Cuban Salsa Dance Club tee for the princely sum of £20.

 There are a ton of other cool designs too – including mugs and posters…so get in!

Seeing The Sights

28 Jan

© Rook Films / Big Talk / Studio Canal / Film 4

Next month’s edition of Caravan Magazine will feature a belated Sightseers special feature.

Here at TVO, we love to report the weird and wonderful side of Onion Land, and this story is no exception.

Whilst we, and critics at large, fell in love with Sightseers upon release in 2012, we couldn’t help but wonder how real life caravanners would take to the black comedy from the minds of Alice LoweSteve Oram and Ben Wheatley.

We needed have worried – it appears the community fell in love with it, and perhaps inspired by our very own guide to the film’s locations (provided courtesy of Steve’s dad), the route undertaken by Chris and Tina is fast becoming a favourite for holiday travellers.

John Sootheran and Ben Hackney are two such fans of the film, who have taken the Marquis Majestic 504 on a tour of the Peak District locations used within the film.

Starting, as the film does, at Crich Tramway Museum, they’ve visited a number of local landmarks, such as Blue John Cavern, Mother Shipton’s Cave and Ribblehead Viaduct.  Albeit with a bit less killing involved.  Not even a chicken sacrifice for good measure.

The results can be seen in the video below, and there’s a full feature expected in the March 2014 issue of Caravan Magazine, out on 12th February. In the meantime, if you don’t yet own a copy of Sightseers for yourself, you can pick it up on dvd and blu-ray from The Velvet Onion Amazon UK Store now.

TVO’s Review Of The Year 2013: Part Four

4 Jan

Hello and a warm welcome to the final part of our Review of 2013. Although October to December may feel like it only just happened, prepare to be amazed by how much you’ve forgotten. We were, but then we’re getting on a  bit.

So here are the best bits from the fourth quarter of the year – cherry-picked from news stories about both our regulars and a few new faces too. Enjoy.


October was the month that Booshmania returned.  Just as the fantastic Behind the Boosh exhibition started its run at Proud Camden, showcasing the history of that most Mighty of comedic troops via the majesty of Dave Brown‘s photography, the boys were back in town.  Or rather, on the pier, as The Mighty Boosh went from the Soho Theatre to Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme in LA. A final (chaotic) UK warm-up show and a further run through at The Comedy Store, almost halted by a Visa saga, paved the way for a live performance that turned out to be one of the Festival’s highlights. Fan forums and social media platforms were buzzing with photos, footage and reviews of the show.

Another announcement that got us more than a bit over-excited in October was the news that Ben Wheatley is to direct the first 2 episodes of the next series of Doctor Who, starring the new Time Lord, Peter Capaldi. How good is that!?  We’re itching to see what happens when you combine one of the UK’s finest directors with its biggest export, now in the capable hands of an Oscar-winning acting legend to boot.  You can see the moment Capaldi became the Doctor in the 2013 Xmas special below…

More telly stuff, with the launch of Matt Berry’s new series, Toast Of London.  We’d been itching to see it since the pilot back in 2012, and it did not disappoint…

Elsewhere, Richard Ayoade established himself as a permanent fixture on prime time panel shows with a stint as team captain on Was It Something I Said? on Channel 4. Ayoade’s intellectual sparring with host David Mitchell certainly made our Sunday evenings feel a bit more highbrow!

What else?  Well, in movie news, there was an update on the cast for Paul King‘s long-awaited Paddington Bear feature film, which included mention of Rufus Jones and James Bachman. To end the month, TVO artists offered us a veritable smorgasbord of comedy options for Halloween night’s out, with special spooky performances from Colin Hoult and Richard Sandling.  And we were sad to lose the talented comedy actor Felix Dexter, who died at the too-young age of 52. He left behind an incredible legacy of great TV performances on shows like Bellamy’s PeopleAbsolutely Fabulous, The Fast ShowKnowing Me Knowing You… With Alan Partridge, Mongrels and Alexei Sayle’s Merry Go Round to name but a few. He will be much misse, and would typically hate all this fuss about him, so let’s remember him with one of his silliest moments – dancing for Sport Relief alongside Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery.  What a dude.

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TVO’s Review Of The Year 2013: Part Two

2 Jan

Yesterday we brought you a round-up of the first quarter of 2013, as we’d probably forgotten half of it ourselves, let alone you lovely lot out there.  The second quarter provided loads more great things to celebrate, so we’ve been ploughing through TVO’s archives to pluck out the best bits from over 700 news stories across 2013. This second instalment of our round-up covers April-June, and is jam packed with forgotten treasures and instant classics alike.  Enjoy.


April, or Ape-ril as it was renamed by the Sumatran Orangutan Society, began with a plea from TVO regulars Dave Brown and Tony Law to grow your beard as large as possible.  This was, of course, in aid of ape conservation: we are all 96.4% Orangutan after all…

The facial hair theme continued apace, with some of Onion Land’s most mighty beard-wearers being active this month.  First up, Paul Kaye hosted a short exhibition of his art, with TVO attended the star-studded press night to admire his work and have a quick chat to the man himself, though sadly his hectic schedule postponed our latest catch-up… we’re gonna get ya in the new year, mate! Kaye also became the latest big name to join the cast of hugely acclaimed fantasy show Game Of Thrones, as warrior Thoros of Myr.

He wasn’t the only one, either. Whilst the world got increasingly excited about his (then) forthcoming film A Field In EnglandBen Wheatley did the last thing critics expected, and made a string of commercials for Go Compare, further proving he works on his own terms ahead of one of the oddest films of 2013…

Another beardy Onion layer up to good things this month was Matt Berry, who was quietly preparing to unleash his new album, Kill The Wolf. May and June would see an awful lot of Berry activity, but April was no push-over, either.  First off, his radio series I, Regress… returned to the airwaves, and he went on to release the first snippet of his new album with a track called The Devil Inside Me

He wasn’t the only one returning, either. Rhys Thomas brought back his incredibly popular Radio 4 show Down The Line for a fifth run – the sixth if you include short-lived tv spin-off Bellamy’s People. Once again it featured Thomas’ fellow Fast Show veterans Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Simon Day and the late, great Felix Dexter. Also along for the ride were Look Around You star Robert Popper, Big Train(and It’s Kevin) actress Amelia Bullmore, Citizen Khanwriter Adil Ray, and another TVO regular (and Rhys’ wife), Lucy Montgomery.

Also back this month were Boosh veterans and indie-folk legends The Ralfe Band, who released the single Come On Go Wild from their new album, Son Be Wise, and toured as support to Manchester’s finest ever band, I Am Kloot.  A video for the single followed on 1st May, which can be seen below.

This month also saw us bid farewell to Life’s Too Short, which returned for a one-off special at Easter. Sadly lacking in Matt Holness magic (Matt was a regular in the show’s first and only series), it nevertheless found the time to bring back Colin Hoult as Warwick Davis‘ useless psychic, Brian. Also along for the ride were telly veterans, Les Dennis, Keith Chegwin and Shaun Williamson, as well as former Batman star Val Kilmer. A fine send-off, then, for a show that ended way too soon.

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Sherlock Connections

29 Dec


We suspect that a great many of you reading this will be getting a tad excited about the impending 3rd series of Sherlock, which begins on new year’s day.  But did you know how many TVO connections the show has?

The fact that our very own fairy godmother, Alice Lowe, will be appearing in the new series as a nurse has inspired us to collate a list of The Velvet Onion’s who’s who of Sherlock:

First up, the big man himself, Benedict Cumberbatch, appeared on Nathan Barley as Robin. Next up, we have his sidekick, Martin Freeman, who was in Blake’s Junction 7 alongside TVO folk Stephen Evans, Justin Edwards and Simon Farnaby (which was also directed by Ben Gregor).

In terms of the people who we write about who have appeared in Sherlock, you may have spotted Katherine Parkinson and Tony Way in the final episode of the second series, and Jonathan Aris, who played Anderson in Sherlock, was also in Sightseers and The World End. Finally (and marvellously tenuously!), Louise Brealey, who played the part of Julian Barratt‘s daughter in the 2011 production of Government Inspector at The Young Vic, plays Molly Hooper in all three series of the show.

You can catch the first episode of series 3 (‘The Empty Hearse’ – you can watch the trailer here) at 9pm on BBC1. For those who can’t quite wait that long, here’s a 7-minute prequel mini-episode:


13 Dec

Sightseers – the incredible comedy horror written by and starring Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, and directed by Ben Wheatley – will receive its television première on Boxing Day.

© Rook Films / Big Talk Pictures

The film, which also stars Richard Glover, Rachel Austin (Black Roses) and Jonathan Aris (Sherlock), was released in cinemas last Autumn and on home media formats in the Spring.  It features Oram and Lowe as nerdy caravanner Chris and Tina, who begin a romantic odyssey which takes an increasingly violent turn.

With cameo appearances by Tony WayTom Meeten and Antony Elvin, the film is a fully fledged TVO treasure, and rightly wowed critics and audiences alike on release.  Those who are still uncertain of its delights will now have no excuse not to check it out!

Film 4 have announced that Sightseers will be its 9pm film on Boxing Day – that’s December 26th for anyone genuinely struggling to remember.  As such, anyone with digital freeview, or subscription cable and satellite packages, will be able to tune in.

Earlier today,  Alice Lowe suggested on her Twitter page that fans of the film could perhaps take part in a tweetalong, and the idea appears to have gathered momentum, with members of the cast and crew, and Film4 themselves hitting the RT button.

© MPI Home Video

We’re all for it, so if you fancy joining the fun, why not get some pot-pourri (we don’t think you could live without pot-pourri), a packed lunch and/or a plate of cheap pasta, and get a break from all that snow and schmaltz for the most twisted romance in recent cinema history.

If you don’t yet own the film for yourself, or want to get the perfect last minute Xmas pressie, you can buy it on dvd or blu-ray from The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

In related news, US fans can rejoice in the fact that it is also available on their side of the pond on dvd as of this week!  The disc is priced at just $22.98, though if digital HD is more your thang, Amazon also have the film available for $19.99 to buy, and $4.99 to rent.  Get in!

Sign Up For A Field In England Exclusive

15 Jul

© Rook Films

A stunning new artwork to accompany the forthcoming A Field In England album release has been revealed by Rook Films.

Created by the illustrators, The Twins of Evil (Luke Insect and Kenn Goodall – also responsible for the Sightseers album artwork), the re-worked poster for A Field In England shown above that will be exclusively available with the vinyl LP. It’s described as: “Complete with old fashioned folds! (It’s an insert into the vinyl)”, although quite what that  means is unclear to this origami novice. Either way, it sounds good!

If you’d like to sign up to receive advance warning about the album release date head over here. The Sightseers album sold out straight away and became a collector’s item in the process, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on this one.

Fielding England

28 Jun

© Rook Films / Channel 4 DVD

We’re officially a week away from the release of A Field In England – and the promotional junket is in full swing.

The film stars an ensemble cast in a tale of desertion, witchcraft and magic mushrooms.  Amongst that cast are TVO regulars Julian Barratt and Richard Glover, and we’re itching to see your reaction to the finished film.

Writer/director Ben Wheatley has been doing the rounds, talking to The Guardian last weekend, alongside Edith Bowman on 6Music with star Michael Smiley.  This week’s stop-off for Ben is with independent film website Director’s Notes.

We’re sure there will be many more interviews and reviews in the coming days than we can possibly keep track of, so do keep an eye on our Twitter page, where we’ll try and RT any we find!

In the meantime, console yourselves with our preview of the film from last week, alongside its gallery of images – and savour the delights of this deliciously wacked out alternate trailer.

Fans of Wheatley’s earlier work can catch Down Terrace – featuring Tony Way – and Kill List – featuring Gareth Tunley – on Film4 on Wednesday and Thursday night respectively, ahead of A Field In England‘s multi-platform premiere.

The film is, of course, released in cinemas on Friday, 5th July, and will be broadcast on Film4 that evening at 10:45pm.   It will also be available on VoD services, and dvd and blu-ray the same day.

Die-hard fans can pre-order the dvd and blu-ray, and a selection of Ben’s previous work including Sightseers, from The Velvet Onion Amazon Store now.


© Rook Films / Channel 4 DVD

© Rook Films / Channel 4 DVD

Prepare To Meet The Baron!

25 May

Earlier this week we were lucky enough to get a sneaky peek of a new project from Tom Meeten and Gareth Tunley.

© Tom Meeten

The Baron is a short film written by Meeten and Tunley, which features performances from TVO regulars, Stephen EvansSteve Oram and Barunka O’Shaughnessy. Waen Shepherd also provides the musical score for the film; and if a further TVO connection were needed, then Nick Gillespie (Sightseers) is the Director of Photography!

Tom stars as a downtrodden office worker who dreams of wreaking revenge on his co-workers in the guise of his alter-ego, the evil Baron. It’s difficult to describe the film without giving away the story, but suffice to say it’s brilliantly silly and very funny indeed, with performances that perfectly balance nuanced observation with comedic excess. And like all the best comedy, The Baron manages to be both surprisingly poignant and utterly demented at the same time. Wonderful stuff!

The screening we attended was packed out with the great and good from the pages of this here website, and the volume of the cheering and applause afterwards is a testament to how much everyone enjoyed the film. For now there are no plans in place for distributing The Baron, but with any luck it will be unleashed on the world very soon. And when it does, we’ll be there to forewarn you…

Don’t forget that you can see  Tom Meeten as part of the epic Oram & Meeten TONIGHT at Knock2Bag and also at Club Fantastico on 3rd July at the Soho Theatre. Be there, or be forever kicking yourself for not being there.

Alice In Hollywood!

24 May
© Rook Films / Big Talk / Studio Canal / Film 4

© Rook Films / Big Talk / Studio Canal / Film 4

Alice Lowe has made her way to LA to help promote Sightseers US release, and will be at special screenings this weekend.

The actress, writer, comedienne and TVO’s fairy godmother will be attending screenings of the film at Arena Cinema in Hollywood, this evening – Friday 24th May, and tomorrow, Saturday 25th May.

For tickets and more info, visit the Arena Cinema website over yonder!  And if you do go along, and get to say hello, let her know you have taste in comedy websites, eh?

Sightseers is currently on theatrical release in LA and New York.  We’ll try to bring you more news on a physical release asap, but in the meantime, those of you with region free dvd and blu-ray machines can pick it up from our UK Store.

Sightseers: The Success Story

11 May
© Rook Films / Big Talk / Studio Canal / Film 4

© Rook Films / Big Talk / Studio Canal / Film 4

Five years in the making, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram’s grisly black comedy Sightseers has wowed the critics, won awards aplenty and is set to launch them and director Ben Wheatley towards international acclaim.

Now released in US cinemas, the love for the film is continuing across the pond, too!

TVO spoke to most of the cast and some key crew members late last year upon the film’s UK release, and to celebrate it’s American unveiling, we’ve collected up some of the juiciest quotes from those talks below…

Several years ago, a couple of seasoned comedians pitched up in the swanky offices of just about every television production company and broadcaster in the land, armed with a short film they’d made with an old friend. It told the tale of two nerdy caravanners, enjoying the English countryside, whilst simultaneously murdering innocent hitchhikers. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t what the executives were looking for.

Cut to 2013, and the motion picture that pilot spun off into has since faced standing ovations at Cannes, graced the cover of Sight And Sound, and trumped Skyfall and Les Miserables to the title of Best British Film at the Empire Film Awards. Now, American film critics and savvy audiences are frothing at the mouth in anticipation of the film’s forthcoming release across the pond.

For stars Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, who play the venomous Chris and put-upon Tina, it has been one hell of a ride.

“This is all really, really mad,” Alice tells TVO. “I guess we’re just trying to enjoy every bit of it. Though, you do sort of wonder how many more good dresses you can find to attend all these screenings and awards ceremonies.”

“Maybe we should turn up at the next one looking like Chris & Tina and go: ‘Hi everyone. I’m not actually a film star. I don’t have the wardrobe for this.’”

Such an idea appeals to Steve Oram, who deadpans the suggestion that the pair would potentially look quite glamorous in their character’s thick cagoules. “We’d look so beautiful…”, he notes, “…like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.” Continue reading

Stateside Love For Sightseers

10 May

© Big Talk Pictures

Ben Wheatley‘s subverted caravanning movie Sightseers, written by and starring Alice Lowe and Steve Oram arrives in the US today, 10th May. By way of a star-spangled fanfare, here’s a round up of the buzz  the film has been generating over the pond:

The movie was the subject of a piece in the New York Times earlier this week, which included comments and contributions from Ben, Steve and Alice. We particularly liked this comment about the film by the reporter: “The particular alchemy of Sightseers relies on its stars and co-creators: Ms. Lowe, who brings a sweet stubbornness and homebody naïveté to her character, and Mr. Oram, an anoraked heap of righteousness and bullied discontent.” To read the article in full click here.

© Big Talk Pictures

Director Wheatley was also interviewed by Film Journal International. In the interview he talks about the timing of the first murder in the movie, his next film, A Field In England, and why DIY movie-making is a good thing. To read it in full take a look at this.

The LA Times gives the film a glowing (if spoiler-full) review, saying of the two stars: “Oram and Lowe have lived so long in Chris’ and Tina’s skins, they are such a good combo. Lowe has one of those wonderfully elastic faces that can take expressions to extremes, while Oram has mastered the art of the deadpan.”

Time Out LA also loves it, whilst one Chicago-based reviewer can’t get enough of it, and gives the film a top 4-star review.

JoBlo Move Network also pulled out all the superlatives in anticipation of the film; Indiewire made it number 4 in its list of Top 10 Indie films to see this month  and also included it in its list of 15 Most Anticipated Indie films to watch this summer.

If you’re in the US and that little lot has whetted your appetite, your best bet is to check local press for showtimes and tickets starting from today. Enjoy!

Nods & Nominations

26 Mar

© Queenonline

The Oscars may seem like a distant memory already, but Awards Season continues apace, and TVO regulars are, as always, in the offering.

The BAFTA Craft Awards were announced this weekend, and comedy legend Rhys Thomas is up for the highly prestigious Breakthrough Talent award for his documentary Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender, which shone a candid light on the period between Freddie’s debut solo album in 1985, and his premature death in 1991.

He’s up against stiff competition from Mike Bartlett for The Town, Julie Gearey for Prisoners’ Wives and Tim Whitnall for Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story.

Elsewhere, in the comedy department, Julia Davis has been nominated for “Writer (Comedy)” due to her gloriously funny period piece Hunderby.  She’s up against Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche and Simon Blackwell for the final run of The Thick Of It (which featured Justin Edwards), as well as John Morton for Twenty Twelve and Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine and Joanna Scanlan for Getting On.  For the full list of nominations, check out Digital Spy’s rundown over yonder.

Last week saw the Royal Television Society Programme Awards take place in London, and again, there were TVO connections on show.  Horrible Histories was pipped to the post as Children’s Programme by Room On The Broom, but Sherlock – the last episode of which featured Katherine Parkinson and Tony Way – won the award for Drama Series ahead of Call The Midwife and Line Of Duty.  Sherlock also picked up an award for “Writer – Drama”, given to its showrunner Steven Moffat.


However, the big TVO win belonged to BabyCow for Alan Partridge: Welcome To The Places Of My Life – which picked up the nod for Scripted Comedy – so congrats to Steve CooganDave Lambert and the rest of the team!  For more info, pop here.

Lastly, and by no means leastly, the delightful Tony Law won Best Club Comic and Best Show for Maximum Nonsense at this weekend’s Chortle Awards, with Stewart Lee & Richard Herring also scoring double wins.

And of course, as we told you this weekendSightseers picked up yet another gong – this time for Best British Film at the Empire Awards.  All in all, a glorious time for the stars of TVO – and we’re over the moon for everyone winning things!

Sightseers On Disc

24 Mar

With Sightseers winning Best British Film at the Empire Awards, and being released on dvd and blu-ray this week, TVO thought it would be as good a time as any to reflect on the film once more.

© Studio Canal

Back in August 2012, TVO teased you all with a spoiler-free preview.  Then in November, as the film’s release drew nearer, we had planned a more in-depth review, but such plans got lost in amongst our blitz of competitions, interviews, location guides and profile pieces.

At that point, we simply didn’t have the time to do it justice, and frankly, we wanted to let the dust settle and help the film’s jolts remain spoiler-free for as long as possible.  Now it feels like an opportune moment to sit down and revisit the film, and tease at the extras available on the dvd and blu-ray releases available now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.




So with a BIG SPOILER WARNING before we continue, we have to admit, it’s time for a confession…  Continue reading

Sightseers: BEST BRITISH FILM Available On DVD & Blu-Ray!

24 Mar
© Empire

© Empire

Sightseers took home the Jameson Empire Award 2013 for Best British Film – and it’s yours to own on dvd and blu-ray on Monday.

The film fought off stiff competition from Dredd, The Woman In Black, Les Miserables and Skyfall.  Yep – the biggest British film of all time at cinemas worldwide was pipped to the post by TVO’s finest, knocking off ramblers, tourists and brides-to-be in a caravan.

Stars Alice Lowe, Steve Oram and Richard Glover were joined by director Ben Wheatley and producer Claire Jones at the prestigious event, with Empire snapping Ben post win, as seen here, and Jones delightedly discovering copies of the film were included in the official goodie-bag all the stars were given.

The quartet took to the stage with executive producer Nira Park to receive their award, and Ben announced: “I’m having a meltdown. Someone else do it.”  This forced Steve into action, commenting: “Thanks to the people who work in my local Sainsburys. And Empire, who came to the set a year ago.”  Alice then added a reference to Ideal star Johnny Vegas, who had riotously accepted an award on behalf of Ted earlier in the evening, saying: “I wish Johnny Vegas were here to accept our award; he’d have done it brilliantly.”

© Nick Gillespie

© Nick Gillespie

TVO would like to congratulate the whole team for their just deserved win, and this seems like as good an opportunity as ever to point back to our interview archive with the team from November and December.  If you missed them back then, you can read our interviews with Ben Wheatley,  Steve Oram, Alice Lowe, Richard Glover, Claire Jones, Laurie Rose, Rachel Austin, Tom Meeten & Tony Way by clicking on their respective names in this sentence, and there’s still chance for you to download your exclusive door hangers and Banjo posters over yonder too.

If all this hasn’t been enough to convince you to check the film out, then the imminent release of the film on dvd and blu-ray this week should be the final bit of persuasion necessary.

© Studio Canal

With two audio commentaries, behind the scenes materials and a blooper reel, the film can now play on a loop in your own homes, and if you don’t want to trek out to find one of the few remaining shops that sell movies, you can get both versions from The Velvet Onion Amazon Store now!




Film buffs and collectors should be aware that Sainsburys are stocking a limited edition two-disc version of the dvd (sadly not the blu-ray) featuring additional extras:  interviews with the cast and crew, a B-roll, premiere footage, and TV spots.

For a more detailed breakdown of the extra material on the standard release, and a more in-depth review of the film than we previously offered, stay peeled.

Last week we offered five peelers a chance to win a copy of either format thanks to the good folk at StudioCanal.
We had hundreds of entries, but our five randomly assigned winners were Nicola Ryall, Peter Cleasby, John Taggart, Cherie Nute and Janet Haste.
Thanks to everyone who entered! Sorry we couldn’t have more winners, but there’s always the links above.

Own Sightseers Original Artwork

24 Mar

Fancy owning some bona fide Sightseers memorabilia? Now’s your chance!

© Kenn Goodall

Illustrator, Kenn Goodall, is making available the original artwork that was used on the sleeve design of Music Control Experiment Vol:1 – Jim Williams: The Sightseers Sessions – the ultra limited edition (150 copies) red vinyl copy of the original score to the film. Sadly the albums are completely sold out now, but for the princely sum of £120 or £140, an ink drawing artwork from the album could be yours!

Goodall created the images under the moniker of Twins of Evil, his partnership with fellow artist, Luke Insect. For more information and to purchase one of the pieces visit Kenn Goodall’s website.

Special Sightseers

12 Mar

© Studio Canal

As from the 25th of March those of you wanting a deeper look into the world of Sightseers can pick up a 2 disk special edition DVD at your local Sainsbury’s.

The exclusive disk will contain interviews with the cast and crew, B-roll, premiere footage, and TV spots. This is in addition to the standard release that hosts behind the scenes footage, out-takes, the theatrical trailer, two audio commentaries, and of course the hilarious feature length film.

Most of you shouldn’t need any introduction to the film, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock: Sightseers, directed by Ben Wheatley, tells the story of two nerdy caravanners on a seemingly accidental killing spree. A whole host of TVO faces appear through the multi-award winning black comedy written by Alice Lowe and Steve Oram.

Don’t forget, you still have exactly one week to enter TVO’s very own competition to win a copy of the fantastic film on DVD or Blu-Ray! Click on the word caravanning to find out how!

If you can’t wait, and don’t want to leave it to chance, you can pre-order the Blu-Ray or the DVD from the TVO Amazon UK Store.

COMPETITION: Win Sightseers On DVD & Blu-Ray!

11 Mar

March 25th sees the long awaited release of Sightseers on dvd and blu-ray, and to celebrate, we’ve teamed up with the good folk at STUDIOCANAL to offer you – yes, that’s right, YOU – the chance to win a copy on dvd or blu-ray.

© Studio Canal

© Studio Canal

For those not in the know, Sightseers is a delicious horror comedy directed by Ben Wheatley, executive produced by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and starring Alice Lowe and Steve Oram (who also co-wrote the film) and Richard Glover.  

It tells the story of two caravanners out of touch with society in the most deadly of ways.  Chris (Oram) wants to show Tina (Lowe) his world and he wants to do it his way – on a journey through the British Isles in his beloved Abbey Oxford Caravan.  Tina’s led a sheltered life and there are things that Chris needs her to see – the Crich Tramway Museum, the Ribblehead Viaduct, the Keswick Pencil Museum and the rolling countryside that accompanies these wonders in his life.  But it doesn’t take long for the dream to fade.  Litterbugs, noisy teenagers and pre-booked caravan sites, not to mention Tina’s meddling mother, soon conspire to shatter Chris’s dreams and send him, and anyone who rubs him up the wrong way, over a very jagged edge…

Both the dvd and blu-ray feature behind the scenes footage, out-takes, the theatrical trailer and two audio commentaries: one by Ben Wheatley & cinematographer Laurie Rose; the other by Wheatley and stars Alice Lowe, Steve Oram and Richard Glover.

We have FIVE copies of either the DVD edition or the BLU-RAY edition to give away, and there’s only one way to do it fairly and squarely – pot luck!  All you have to do is tell us the answer to this question:

What was the name of the 2009 BBC3 Pilot written by Alice Lowe, and co-starring Steve Oram & Richard Glover?

Simply answer this slice of TVO Trivia, and email us the correct answer to, specifying which disc you’d like.  It’s one or the other, peelers, so do be specific or we can’t include your entry!

The closing date for entries is at 11:59pm on Tuesday 19th March 2013.

Five lucky winners will be selected and we’ll announce the winners next week.

For full T&C, see below.  Due to the nature of this competition, and the fact that the film’s international release is still pending in some countries, we regret to tell our lovely readers oversees that this particular competition will be for UK entrants only.  We’ll aim to bring you more international content soon, so stay peeled!

If you can’t enter, or don’t win, it’s not too late to add the film to your collection.  Both formats can be pre-ordered now from The Velvet Onion Amazon UK Store, with the dvd a measly £13.49 and the blu-ray only £16.09.  We’ll even be able to ship orders internationally, so as Chris would say… “Get in!”

Terms & Conditions
This competition offers 1 x dvd or blu-ray copies of Sightseers to five UK residents.  The winners will be picked randomly from emails containing the correct answer to the question above, as well as a specification for preferred disc format, and will be contacted via the email address they use to enter.  Contact details will not be shared with any additional third parties beyond Studio Canal and their promotional team.  Only entries made to the correct email address will be accepted.  The Velvet Onion will not accept entries as replies to our Facebook/Twitter pages, comments to this or any other posts in error or emails to any email address in our domain except the one stated above, nor any entries received after this time-frame.  This competition is being run entirely by The Velvet Onion, with prizes organised by Studio Canal.  One entry per person.  Any entrants found making multiple entries from the same IP address will be disqualified, and banned from entering further competitions run by The Velvet Onion.  All entries must be received via email by 11.59pm GMT on 19th March 2013.  The judge’s decision is final.  There is no monetary value to this competition and no cash alternative will be offered. The Velvet Onion and Studio Canal reserve the right to withdraw this competition if any overriding issues arise.

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