Yesterday, we travelled to the remarkable location of BBC Radio Berkshire (we couldn’t quite believe it – it’s like Downton Abbey!!) where John had a fantastic chat with DJ Mike Read not just about Tommy Cooper and our show, but the inspiration behind it, other remarkable comedians and our hometown of Grimsby. Mike was also good enough to play two classic Cooper records and give John a chance to do the odd gag. It’s a wonderful interview (one of our very best!) and it can be heard by clicking on the link below (we’re at 1hr37mins.)
John Hewer (aka Tommy Cooper) chatted with London’s very own Robert Elms about the man behind how Just Like That! The Tommy Cooper Show came about, the longevity of his success and about the shows residence at the Museum of Comedy.
You can catch the interview by clicking on the link below.
We’re over the moon to announce our brand new website. Easier to navigate, slicker and bristling with information about who we are, what we do and, most importantly, what we’re doing!
We’ve made it easier for you to contact us directly via the contact form and we’ll be updating sections throughout the website over the upcoming weeks. Huge, well-deserved thanks to Derek Smith at Derek Smith Media for making this possible.
In the meantime, you can always catch us in person at our current production Just Like That! The Tommy Cooper Show which is playing at the Museum of Comedy until January 24th. Tickets are available by clicking here.
Thanks for visiting!
We continue to have great success and receive terrific feedback from our production of “Just Like That! The Tommy Cooper Show” at the new Museum of Comedy in London… thank you to all those who have already seen the show in our London home – performances run until the end of January if you’ve not already made it.
Looking at other projects, the first dates are confirmed for the winning play from our Scratch Night 2014 …
The 1st and 2nd May 2015 at Louth Playgoers Riverhead Theatre will see the premiere of the riotously farcical “Shakespeare in Debt” written by budding writer Ted Stanley.
What a summer!!!
We’ve posted a lively blog all about our Tommy Cooper exploits in Edinburgh during August, and we’re now gearing up for our London run which starts on the 30th!
We’re also about to undergo a huge website overhaul… Just like that!
We’re thrilled to announce the winner of “Scratch Night 2014″ held on Saturday at Louth Playgoers’ Riverhead Theatre.
Ted Stanley’s witty, quick-paced (and slightly controversial) attack on all things Shakespeare got the belly laughs (and the votes) on the night and will be fully developed into a production next year.
Congratulations Ted, and thank you to the fellow writers from this year’s Scriptwriting Workshop and to those who came to support and vote on the night.
It’s been exactly two weeks since we arrived in Edinburgh, and almost a week since the curtain fell (there were no curtains… but it sounds nice doesn’t it?) on our last performance there as part of this year’s Fringe Festival. It would seem then that now is as good a time as ever to report in with everything that happened.
DAY #1 – Saturday 16th August: Our Accommodation
After a busy morning working with the new writers for the Scriptwriting Workshop at Louth (shameless plug – open Scratch Night at the Riverhead Theatre, Sat 6th Sept, 7.30pm), two cars left Hambledon HQ en route to our accommodation.
Let me tell you about our accommodation…
As we were rather late to jump on the ol’ lets-do-the-Fringe bandwagon (and we were only performing for the final week), the financial practicalities and implausible costs meant it would’ve been financial suicide to consider renting out a flat or rooms for all our merry gang in the city centre. We therefore boldly considered what no “Fringe-goer” would ever consider for a second time; camping. Or caravanning, to be more precise. But for a mere fraction of the going price (and I really do mean mere), we found ourselves holidaying at a campsite just outside Pencaitland, with beautiful views of the stars, candlelit meetings and only a 50 minute commute to our venue. It was near idyllic for us, as it meant we literally could escape the madcap but full-on razzle-dazzle of the Fringe every night, recharge our batteries (but not our phones…) and be ready for a brand new day on the Royal Mile.
DAY #2 – Sunday 17th August: Our Arrival in Edinburgh
With Rachael (acting as our stage manager) and Jane (as our Press and Marketing spokeswoman) arriving via train, we hit the Royal Mile and targeted several shows for exit-flyering. I must admit we found it quite easy to engage theatregoers; shouting out “Tommy Cooper” meant we very soon got people’s attention and, before we knew it, we had to dash back to the venue (more on that wonderful place later) to stock up on flyers! We had some custom-made A-frames built, which we put around Bristo Square, and we also had some impressive placards around and about the city.
Of course, we always found time to chill out. On Sunday, we went to see gagster and pun-slinger Tim Vine perform his new show. Tim had, quite rightly, sold out and was in the process of putting on extra shows to meet the demand. His show was simply sublime. Very rarely to all of us from Hambledon HQ go and see the same show. We all loved it and personally, I can’t wait to catch up with it again on his tour.
DAY #3 – Monday 18th August: Our First Show
Our first show had already sold very well with an impressive 83 Cooper fans coming along to catch some classic TC. Our venue, The Wine Bar, which was situated within the Gilded Balloon has an interesting layout, consisting of a more-than-ample raised stage, about 70 seats on the flat and a balcony to seat about another 20. Our venue technician, Charlie, was super-speedy in helping us with our tech and we soon had our get-in and strike down to fine, fine art (each show has about 7 minutes to set up and then another 7 to strike their set and props… nifty…..) It was very much all-hands-on-deck for these, but we were rarely late starting.
With our first show complete and an overall success, we hit the flyering campaign again to help increase the numbers for the rest of the show.
DAY #4 – Tuesday 19th August: Jane
Jane was excellent (she still is) regarding getting the press and public behind our production. On Tuesday, I was called in to Edinburgh early to perform the famous “Spoon/Jar” routine in front of the Greyfriars Bobby statue, just down the road from our venue. It created a massive interest from passers-by, held up traffic (oops…) and got us featured in The Scotsman and a teaser-trailer has now been produced and is doing the rounds on YouTube. We also made good use of the opportunity by having some more publicity shots taken, which featured in The Stage. All of this, plus the lovely 4* reviews that we picked up during our short visit, is all down to the hard work of Jane. It did mean that sadly she spent most of her time there at Fringe Central (a quiet haven for all performers and workers on the Fringe to escape the hubbub outside) tied to her laptop chasing up reviewers and photographers, but without it, our audience figures wouldn’t have been as spectacular and there certainly wouldn’t have been as a bit a buzz about our production.
DAY #5 – Wednesday 20th August: Martin and the Museum of Comedy
Martin, who has helped co-produce the show through the Museum of Comedy, came to see our first performance on Monday and wanted to meet up for a coffee. It’s always good fun catching up with him, as we share the same sense of humour as well as the same approach to our work. He congratulated us on the show and was extremely positive about our transfer down to London. It now very much falls into the hands of Rachael to continue working with his team to make sure our move to the Museum is smooth, successful and as ribald as our tour: just like that!
DAY #6 – Thursday 21st August: Tommy on the Streets of Edinburgh
By this stage, we were kind of in a daily routine: we’d arrive in Edinburgh at about 11am (via the Musselburgh Sports Centre for our daily ablutions) and immediately we’d begin flyering ahead of our 1pm get-in for a 1.15pm show start. I’d dash off to the venue to change into my tailcoat, apply my make-up and fez. I would be in this garb from 11am-6pm daily (with a cheeky shirt change after the show, if it had been a particularly animated performance or rather warm!) What I can say, which did literally surprise me, is just how much admiration there is for Tommy Cooper, thirty years on from his death. I wasn’t even born when he sadly passed away, yet I could walk around a city centre, with my hair sticking out from underneath a fez, and husbands would nudge their wives, children would smile, and about 80% of people would do their impression; either the jocular hand movement, or “Jus’ Like That”. It was a bit exhausting, because more often than not I would try to engage them in some Cooperisms, but it was absolutely wonderful. Good on yer Tom! And good on yer the human race.
But it sometimes proved interesting when I had to nip off and buy a set of cufflinks, or when I had to re-educate some Dr. Who fans…
This was also the day when myself and Chris (our MD) went to see the fabulous Eric & Little Ern show. The show has been performing to packed houses up and down the country for over a year and it was great to see a near-sell-out again for them. The show recaptures not only the energy and classic routines of the famous comedy duo, but also the warmth and admiration shared between them, which, as I saw for myself backstage at a FastFringe gig later that evening, was reciprocated between long-time friends Jonty (Eric) and Ian (Ernie).
The FastFringe gig was very daunting…. About twelve comedians have three minutes in front of an audience to promote their show. This sort of thing, I noticed, is second-nature to a gigging comedian, but technically that isn’t what I am. But thankfully, Tommy’s material won through, and the audience lapped up the “Spotted Hankie” routine and some surefire gags. A thoroughly enjoyable experience. Topped off with a free pint.
DAY #7 – Friday 22nd August: The Halfway Point
Four shows down, four to go. Our weekend was already lined up to be a goody and thanks to word of mouth, many people were buying tickets on the door. It was at this point that our reviews were starting to filter through and we were now meeting people about the city who came over to us to say how much they’d enjoyed the show and were spreading the word. With this in mind, and with our flyer-quota drying up, we took it ever-so-slightly easier on Friday and Saturday and enjoyed the ambience of the city and caught a couple more shows. I personally went back to the caravan and had a kip!
DAY #8 – Saturday 23rd August: The Show
Saturday was, for me, the best show. Over the week I had really come to enjoy the performing side of it, and easily succumbed to throwing in some additional one-liners and gags that I had remembered from first researching the show way back in February. This was great, as it kept the production alive – it also kept Chris from behind the cloth and Rachael behind the operating system on their toes! Some things which we originally dropped from this truncated version were put back in to great acclaim, whereas some stuff received a round of applause every time (more through recognition and association than anything else). A fluidity had been achieved by Wednesday – and I sincerely hope it stays with the show through to London and beyond.
DAY #9 – Sunday 24th August: The Penultimate Day
We were always a bit edgy about these last two performances, as we knew the footfall at the Fringe would be significantly lower. Indeed, the friendly faces behind the box office at the Gilded Balloon informed us that walk-ups were now practically extinct. However, it seemed that our show bucked the trend; as we saw our sales triple during these last two shows, which meant the production went out on a gut-busting high. As we hit the Royal Mile to begin flyering for the day, we were inadvertently met by members of the public saying “we’re on our way to see you now” etc. Truly uplifting.
DAY #10 – Monday 25th August: And It’s All Over – Just Like That!
By 3pm, all our gear was in the back of the car and we were starting the long journey back to Hambledon HQ. Our time at the Fringe had been an absolute whirlwind – with strangers coming up for photographs, a blink-and-you’ll-miss spot on the ITV News, people wearing our giveaway badges, and venue staff personally recommending our show to anyone who asked.
But then, come the next morning, I’d remembered what it felt like to have a really good night’s sleep.
A huge, huge thanks to everyone who helped us out to make our visit not only possible but a literal joy! And also to our supporters for catching us up in Edinburgh (we met some folk from Louth and Sleaford in our audiences – small world!)
We asked the winner of 2013’s Scratch Night (and writer of our 2014 production of Miscreation) about last year’s first ever Scriptwriting Workshop, co-run with Louth Playgoers’ Riverhead Theatre.
Here’s what he had to say…
What made you attend the course in the first place?
To be honest, my mum. My parents had just moved to Louth and heard about the workshop from visiting the Riverhead Theatre, and my mum called me to see if I’d be interested. I’ve always wanted to get in to scriptwriting – comedy in particular – and it sounded like a good course to take to explore that interest.
What features of the course did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoyed the creative writing exercises – being given a particular set of rules or parameters to work within to write a scene. For example, writing a short scene then reducing it until it’s just a few words, whilst still communicating the same story. It really makes you think about the way that scripts work, and how the actors work with a script.
What surprised you most about the course?
The quality of the final scripts for the Scratch Night – each course member had written something that you could certainly see being made in to a full play. I don’t know what everyone else’s writing skills were like before the course, but I certainly wasn’t able to write coherent and structured scenes beforehand.
Was it what you expected it to be?
I’ve never attended a workshop before so I didn’t know what to expect – I think I imagined it to be more like a university lecture, I’m glad I was wrong!
What was the advantages of working within a group?
It was great to try and come up with a scene working with different members of the group – each had their own particular ideas and style, and it was a lot of fun coming up with things together.
What was the advantages of working one-to-one?
The feedback is invaluable, having experience and knowledge available on a one-to-one basis. One of the most exciting aspects of the course was the feedback from John – being told ‘that’s funny’ by someone who knows what they’re talking about was certainly good for my ego!
Can you explain the ‘Scratch Night’ from the writers’ point of view?
All the course participants wrote a short scene – 10-15 minutes long – to be performed by actors in front of a live audience. The audience and a panel from the theatre then voted for their favourite, to be made in to a full length play. I think I can safely say this was thrilling for all of us – when would you ever get that opportunity?
What was it like to have your work read out by actors? Was it helpful? Daunting?
The scene I wrote was on last, but I didn’t feel nervous at all…..until about 5 seconds before the play started. But it’s brilliant to hear the lines you’ve written being performed. It was extremely helpful with regards to writing the full play, the actors really brought the characters to life. The actor who played the ‘main’ character in the scratch night performance was certainly in my mind throughout the rest of the writing process, and I’m delighted he wanted to play the character again for the full performance.
Can you describe the process of what happened when you won the Scratch Night event?
Well the first thing I did was to write a treatment for the entire play, so that John could get an idea of the story and give me some pointers and advice. After that I began to try and put a full play together, which involved a lot of conversations with John, as I’ve never written anything like a full length play before. Then more recently it was the auditions, for which I was a part of the audition panel and had input in the final selection. I attended the first full read through, where I actually got to hear everything I’d been working on over the months come alive. The play is now in the rehearsal stage. Although my input at this point isn’t really required I’ve still been involved, and will be attending a number of rehearsals leading up to the main performance (at which point I think I’ll be more nervous than the actors!).
What do you enjoy about writing?
That you can start off writing with a vague idea about an interaction, or a joke – that becomes a conversation, which creates characters, and scenes….and then you have a story.
Who would you recommend the course to?
Everyone. I was going to say ‘to anyone who’s ever had a vague interesting in writing something’ but then surely everyone has, at some point, thought ‘I wonder if I could…..’
Sooo much to report on! But for now, let’s get this bundle of news formally announced
The tour has been an undoubted success. Out of our 10 shows to date, we’ve had 6 full-houses and even a few standing ovations!! Most importantly, all our audience have been simply fantastic, and the wonderful feedback has been overwhelming. To see a list of selected highlights, including a full review, you can follow the link here. People are free to write a quick note on our Guest Book if you wish to leave any feedback too; we always like receiving them.
As we announced in our previous mailout, the show is now appearing for a limited 8-show run at the Edinburgh Festival. Our show dates are 18th-25th August appearing daily at 1.15pm. Tickets are already on sale at www.gildedballoon.co.uk and are now available direct from our website too under the Book Now page.
The Museum of Comedy is a brand new, interactive and immersive museum for all the family right in the heart of London. The doors officially opened in May 2014, but we at Hambledon Productions got to have a sneaky peak back in April! The Museum is literally cram-packed with golden gems from our illustrious comedy heritage, with props, scripts, posters and board games stemming right back to when records began. Pride of place, for us, is an exhibition of custom-made props for Tommy Cooper; the originals that we painstakingly recreated for our tour. Best news, however, is the new, state-of-the-art performance space, aptly named The Cooper Room, where we shall be taking up residence from 28th September up to and beyond Christmas – just like that! Full information over at our dedicated Tommy Cooper page.
Thanks for visiting,