Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

September 22, 2007

Stratford-upon-Avon (part two: before the show)

Most people will know this, but perhaps people overseas won't. Stratford-upon-Avon is the place William Shakespeare was born and wrote his plays. It is a village really with a population of about 20 thousand. Its major industry, I suspect, is Shakespeare, with tourists looking around the collection of museums and houses - I think there were three claiming to be Shakespeare's home. The Royal Shakespeare Company is based here, and it was at one of their theatres the JAM was being recorded. It's a beautiful town. Somewhat surprisingly I found the locals we spoke to (shopkeeper, taxi driver, landlady at the B&B) didn't realise the JAM was being recorded tonight.

This is perhaps something to note for people wanting to see a JAM live. They never do much advertising - I didn't see any posters up anywhere. They don't need to I guess. But if you want to see a JAM, you will have to make it happen - don't expect there to be extensive advertising.

The theatre was a lovely neighbourhood theatre. Tickets were five pounds I think - we got ours free through Nicholas. There was quite a queue when I arrived and as I didn't have tickets in my hand, I did wonder if I had come all this way to miss out. But the free tickets came through after I spoke to one of the attendants. (I should say that Keith was unwell as I said so I was alone).

Inside the theatre I looked around. The stage was in what's called a "round". That is it's shaped like a semicircle and the audience is seated on all sides (apart from the back) rather than everyone being in front of the stage). Nicholas made a big thing about it being the first time they'd done a show like that.

The stage is set up in what you might call a minimalist fashion. Three tables were set well back from the front of the stage so everyone could see. There is a black tablecloth draped over the tables. On the tables sit five microphones, six glasses of water. That's it, there wasn't even any BBC logos or branding and it looks very drab.

The audience - when I first arrived they looked elderly - like the Radio Four audience average age was 70. But I think maybe the older people bought tickets in advance, as it filled up there were a lot of younger people too. Like the old fashioned theatres of Shakespeare's time, the audience were seated on three floors - Nicholas also said this was a first and it seemed to spook Graham Norton slightly. The guy next to me was about 20 - and seemed to be really enjoying the show. The theatre wasn't full, the capacity was said to be about 1200 and I would say that maybe a hundred seats were empty.

The show starts with the producer Tilusha Ghelani coming out. She is short, she had to point the mike down at her to speak into it. She thanked everyone for coming and apologised for the delay, she said some of the panel had arrived late.

Tilusha and the sound engineer sit outside the theatre during the show in a sound van which is like a large moving truck.

She introduced Nicholas who was in a very flamboyant suit, cream with pinstripes. It did look a little like a deckchair as someone has described his outfits. He chatted to the audience a little, made a joke that in a round, some of the audience would be looking at his Nichol-arse. He and Tilusha both emphasised that the audience needed to laugh a lot - and we did!

So he brought on the cast. Now I knew that Clement and Graham were on the panel, didn't know who the others were to be. They came out in their seating order, right to left. I picked up Gyles Brandreth as the third panellist. I lost Nicholas's introduction of the fourth in the cheering that greeted them coming out. A big man, one might say a fat man. I racked my brain for who this could be, and of course this turned out to be Phill Jupitus, making his JAM debut.

They sat in this order, two at each table, Phill, Clement, Trudi Stevens (blowing the whistle), Nicholas, Gyles and Graham. Graham was in tidy but fashionable clothes, but not one of the outrageous shirts of his TV shows. Gyles was in suit jacket and business shirt, but no tie. Clement was just in his shirt - jacket and tie had come off. Phill was in jumper and trousers. Last time I saw a pic of him he was bearded, but today he was clean shaven. He, Nicholas and Gyles wore glasses. Phill seemed delighted to be there. Graham joked a little with the audience.

Nicholas asked each of them to do sound tests so the engineer could make sure the mikes were all working for fine. The engineer's name was Roger and Nicholas referred to him as "Roger in the van". Gyles said "did you say rogering in the van?" For those who don't know this English slang, rogering is a term for sex, usually anal sex. So this caused a few laughs and Nicholas kept coming back to this joke, even though it's the sort of joke that only really works once. I felt slightly sorry for Roger who must have heard this sort of joke approximately 20 million times. We could hear Roger's voice over the loudspeaker saying the voices were fine. When it was Clement's turn for the sound test, he told a dirty limerick! I wish I could remember it but the first, second and fifth lines ended with -uck words so you get the flavour.

And so we were ready to start!


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