Entertainment

PLAYING a stand-up comic who is out of tune with his audience should be a doddle for Shane Richie – the former EastEnders star says so himself.

He’s about to take on the stage role of the washed-up Archie Rice in a new production of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, which can be both hilarious and heartbreaking.

WASHED-UP STAND-UP: Shane Richie plays Archie Rice in The Entertainer at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The action has been moved from the 1950s to the 1980s, but the themes of a failing star performing to audiences looking for a different style of comedy hasn’t changed – and Shane says he knows exactly how Archie feels.

“Unlike a lot of the actors that have played this part before me, like Sir Laurence Olivier or Kenneth Branagh – there is no denying that they are wonderful actors – but they have never done stand-up,” he explains.

“They’ve never stood on a stage, in a club or at Butlins when kids are doing knee-slides in front of you, there’s someone playing on the fruit machines or waiting for bingo to get started. I have.

“I’ve been that comedian and I’ve stood there doing my thing for all these people who have come to see Little and Large or Jimmy Cricket, and I’ve died because this audience had been fed a staple diet of your Jim Davidsons, your Bernard Mannings, your Jim Bowens.

“That’s all they knew, so I would have to go and perform material which was totally not right for them, and died. So I know. I know what it’s like, I know who Archie Rice is, I know how it feels inside and I know what it’s like to be dead on stage.”

“I’ve had beer bottles thrown at me in Colchester,” he laughs. “I remember in Wales, coming off stage, I was 19 or 20, and back then you had to do three half-hour spots. I remember doing this particular club, going on and doing the material that I was doing then and just dying a death. No one was interested, they were just talking.

“I remember getting changed in the dressing room in between spots and there was a duo there too, and the average age of the duo was dead. And one of them said, ‘Hey, if you don’t mind me saying, I don’t think you’re very funny’. He said, ‘Do you know any Tom Jones? Why don’t you go and sing because you’re not very funny.’

“So I remember going on and singing Rock Around the Clock and a load of old Elvis songs, just so I could get paid.

“This is back in the day when you’d arrive in the middle of nowhere, find a phone box, ring the agent and they would tell you there and then if you were working or not, then you’d have to find some digs for the night. So I know who Archie Rice is, and that’s him.”

In The Entertainer the story is set against the backdrop of the Falklands War of 1982, and  the satirical new world of alternative comedy has dismissed Archie’s style of humour and his act as old–fashioned, even offensive. The mother-in-law joke has been outlawed and a generation of entertainers like Archie have suddenly found themselves irrelevant.

Shane, who played Robin Hood in panto at Woking two years ago and is also a Surrey resident, landed the Archie role thanks to director Sean O’Connor, who worked with him as a story editor on EastEnders.

“I was in my mid-forties then. Sean was still in his early fifties and he said to me, ‘Are you familiar with John Osborne’s The Entertainer?’ And, of course, I was. That amazing performance by Sir Laurence Olivier, a great movie, and he said, ‘Because one day you will make a great Archie Rice’.

“So, we jump 12 years ahead and last year we’re chatting, and he said, ‘How do you fancy having a go at this?’ I said, ‘I’d love to…’”

Shane Richie will star in The Entertainer at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday (23 September) until Saturday 28 September.

For the full story get the 19 September edition of the News & Mail

KENT singer-songwriter Katie Bradley came into the spotlight with her 2012 iTunes blues hit I Hear The River, which received a nomination for Best Original Song in the British Blues Awards, which came from her debut album She’s Ready.

PLAYING THE BLUES – Katie Bradley is one of the leading attractions at the Americana Festival, Fiery Bird, Woking, this weekend

Her success grew quickly as she supported and collaborated with the likes of Luther Allison, Suzanne Vega, Lucky Peterson, Taildragger, Georgie Fame and Geno Washington.

An accomplished blues harp player, her second album, Anchor Baby Sessions, has cemented her reputation to the point where she is a major attraction at the first Surrey Americana Festival in Woking this weekend.

Taking place at the Fiery Bird, the festival will run on Saturday (4pm-midnight) and Sunday  (2-10.30pm) and will also feature Dustbowl Sinners, Mantic Muddlers, Downtown Roundabout, Beth Keeping, the Will Purdue Band and many more.

When he left school at 13 unable to read and write, it seemed unlikely that Benjamin Zephaniah would become one fo the UK’s best known poets.

However, the Brummie went on to befriend Nelson Mandela, fought in the 1980s race riots and recorded radical reggae music with Bob Marley’s former band.

Benjamin Zephaniah

His first poetry book was published in 1980 and his success has grown ever since and now he’s doing his first tour in eight years, to coincide with his autobiography, The Life And Rhymes Of Benjamin Zephaniah.

In the show, which will be at G Live, Guildford, on Friday 27 September, the 61-year-old will explain how he fought injustice and discrimination to lead a remarkable life, while sharing a selection of favourite stories and poems.

Believe it or not, it’s 10 years since Diversity took the nation by storm when they won the third series of Britain’s Got Talent, beating Susan Boyle in front of a television audience of over 20 million.

The country’s best known dance troupe are celebrating by heading out on tour, and will bring their latest show, Born Ready, to G Live, Guildford, on Tuesday (24 Sept) and Wednesday (25 Sept).

HIGH ENERGY – Diversity will celebrate past successes and visions of the future at G Live, Guildford, next week

Creator and choreographer Ashley Banjo says: “Born Ready is such an incredibly special tour for the whole Diversity family. 2019 marks 10 years since we won Britain’s Got Talent and since then we have continued to innovate, grow and achieve things that most said were impossible.

Born Ready will not only celebrate this and look back at some of the iconic Diversity moments over the past 10 years. But it will also look forward to the future, at how Diversity continues to evolve and how we plan to pass what we’ve created onto the next generation. Be prepared for dance, illusions, mind blowing stunts and inspiring stories that will hopefully leave people amazed!”

Playing a washed up stand-up comic who is out of tune with his audience should be a doddle for Shane Richie – the ex-Eastenders star says so himself.

He’s about to take on the stage role of Archie Rice in a new production of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, which can be both hilarious and heartbreaking.

The action has been moved from the 1950s to the 1980s but the themes of a failing star performing to audiences looking for a different style of comedy hasn’t changed – and Shane says he knows exactly how Archie feels.

“Unlike a lot of the actors that have played this part before me, like Sir Laurence Olivier or Kenneth Branagh – I mean there is no denying that they are wonderful actors – but they have never done stand up,” he explains.

“They’ve never stood on a stage, in a club or at Butlins when kids are doing knee slides in front of you, there’s someone playing on the fruit machines or waiting for bingo to get started – and I have.

WASHED-UP SAND-UP Shane Richie plays Archie Rice in The Entertainer at the New Victoria Theatre Woking

“I’ve been that comedian and I’ve stood there doing my thing for all these people who have come to see Little and Large or Jimmy Cricket, and I’ve died on my arse because this audience had been fed a staple diet of your Jim Davidsons your Bernard Mannings, your Jim Bowens. That’s all they knew, so I would have to go up perform material which was totally not right for them and died on my arse. So, I know. I know what it’s like, I know who Archie Rice is, I know how it feels inside and I know what is like to be dead on stage.”

Richie was famously a Butlins redcoat early in his career but his experience of comedy goes back further than that.

“My dad used to run clubs in London, I grew up around working men’s clubs in north London,” he recalls. “I come from a big Irish family so every weekend we’d be at the clubs and I’d see these comedians come on stage and do Irish gags, homophobic, racist, sexist stuff and people would laugh. Then when I started in the business, in the ‘80s, it’s been well documented that I did stand up. I did shows like Live From the Piccadilly, Live From the Palladium, Seaside Specials, I did summer seasons in clubs, holiday camps, I get depressed thinking about it.”

Although Richie was inspired by the ‘new’ alternative comedy of the 1980s like Spitting Image, French and Saunders and Alexei Sayle, it did him no good at first.

“I’ve had beer bottles thrown at me in Colchester,” he laughs. “I remember in Wales, coming off stage, I was 19 or 20, and back then you had to do three half-hour spots. I remember doing this particular club, going on and doing the material that I was doing then and just dying a death. No one was interested, they were just talking.

“I remember getting changed in the dressing room in between spots and there was a duo there too and the average age of the duo was dead. And one of them said ‘Hey, if you don’t mind me saying, I don’t think you’re very funny.’ He said’ Do you know any Tom Jones? Why don’t you go and sing because you’re not very funny?’

“So I remember going on and just singing Rock Around the Clock and a load of old Elvis songs just so I could get paid.

“This is back in the day when you’d arrive in the middle of nowhere, find a phone box ring the agent and they would tell you there and then if you are working or not and then you’d have to find some digs for the night so, I know who Archie Rice is, and that is him.”

In The Entertainer the story is set against the backdrop of the Falklands War of 1982, and in a reversal of Richie’s experience, the satirical new world of alternative comedy has dismissed Archie’s style of humour and his sort of act as old–fashioned and even offensive. The mother-in-law joke has been outlawed and a generation of entertainers like Archie have suddenly found themselves irrelevant.

Richie, who played Robin Hood in panto at Woking two years ago and is also a Surrey resident, landed the Archie role thanks to director Sean O’Connor who worked with him as a story editor on EastEnders in 2001.

“He was responsible for a lot of Alfie Moon’s big stories back in the day and then we worked together on a reboot of Minder for Channel 5 where I played Archie Daley,” he explains. “I was in my mid-forties then. Sean was still in his early fifties and he said to me ‘Are you familiar with John Osborne’s The Entertainer?’ And of course, I was. That amazing performance by Sir Lawrence Olivier, a great movie, and he said, ‘Because one day you will make a great Archie Rice’.

“So, then we jump 12 years ahead and last year we’re chatting, and he said, ‘How do you fancy having a go at this?’ I said, ‘I’d love to’…”

Shane Richie will star in The Entertainer at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday (23 September) until Saturday 28 September.

LOCAL, national and touring US acts are heading to Woking this month for the Surrey Americana Festival.

IN THE GROOVE – The Mantic Muddlers are among the attractions at the Americana Festival

About 20 acts have been lined up for the event, which will take place at the Fiery Bird on Saturday and Sunday 21 and 22 September.

Among those confirmed are the Mantic Muddlers, Katie Bradley, Dustbowl Sinners, the Will Purdue Band, Phil Coleman, J Lee & The Hoodoo Skulls and Downtown Roundabout.

For tickets details and further information, please visit www.fierybirdvenue.org.uk.

For more details about acts appearing at the festival, see the 19 September edition of the News & Mail

THE world’s most famous rags-to-riches fairytale, Cinderella, will come to Woking next week, thanks to Northern Ballet.

A tragic end to a perfect summer’s day leaves Cinderella with no choice but to accept a desolate life of servitude. At the mercy of her wicked stepmother, Cinderella seeks joy where she can, but after encountering the handsome, carefree prince skating on a glistening lake of ice, she yearns for another life.


CHILLING OUT – Northern Ballet’s version of Cinderella makes the most of its icy setting in Imperial Russia

Despite her sadness, Cinderella never forgets to be kind and her generosity is repaid when a chance encounter with a mysterious magician changes her destiny forever…

Choreographed by David Nixon, this version of Cinderella will combine dance with magic and circus skills. He says: “We have staged our ballet in the winter wonderland of Imperial Russia, opening up the possibilities of this colourful world as a new setting for Cinderella to make her journey.

“Audiences will see the dancers skate on a glistening lake of ice, stilt walkers entertaining in a marketplace and the fateful ball held in a Fabergé-inspired ballroom.”

Northern Ballet’s Cinderella will be at the New Victoria Theatre from Wednesday 18 September until Saturday 21 September.

WHEN a band’s touring van breaks down it could spell disaster, but for Zounds it turned out to be their biggest stroke of luck.

“By sheer chance we broke down at the end of the road where Crass lived,” explains frontman Steve Lake. “So we went to their house and it turned out we did get on really well.”

UNDERCOVER MISSION – Steve Lake fronts Zounds at the Fiery Bird on Saturday

At this time, in the late 1970s, anarcho punk band Crass had a massive cult following, which turned out to be good news for Reading outfit Zounds.

“It sounds like something from a made-up showbiz story, but it’s true,” explains Steve. “We had started playing in 1977 and we used to go to a lot of free festivals and play at a lot of them.

“Everywhere we were playing we saw posters for Crass and Poison Girls the week before or after, but we’d never met them.”

Following the fateful meeting after the van breakdown, Crass were quick to offer Zounds the chance to release a record on their label – and this flung them into the indie punk limelight.

The first release, an EP called Can’t Cheat Karma, went to number one in NME indie charts, although the singer admits: “That’s not because people knew who we were. Their devotion to Crass meant they thought it was the sort of thing they’d like.”

The band went on to release more records via Rough Trade, including The Curse of Zounds album, but their initial career was fairly shortlived.

Steve says: “In 1982 we stopped playing for a lot of reasons. It was getting to be less fun. There was a lot of trouble at gigs in those days, the late ’70s and early ’80s were pretty violent times.”

Steve continued to exist on the fringes of the DIY music scene, putting on gigs and playing occasionally, and eventually reformed Zounds in 2007, leading to the release of the album, The Redemption of Zounds, in 2011.

He is loving the band’s new lease of life, except for one thing.

“The songs I wrote came out of our experience, which happened to be a harsh experience. But the songs about ecology, consumerism, housing shortages are sadly still problems for people today.”

Zounds will play at the Undercover Festival at the Fiery Bird, Woking, this weekend, Friday and Saturday, 13 and 14 September.

Undercover Festival lineup

Tomorrow (Friday): Spear of Destiny (Kirk Brandon), 1919, The Satellites, The Blue Carpet Band, R.E.D. (Religion Equals Decay)

Saturday: Towers of London, Menace, Wonk Unit, Rubella Ballet, Zounds, The Fanzines, Actified UK, Wipes

For the full interview get the 12 September edition of the News & Mail

AS A small child Ben Bowman dreamed of stage stardom – but he quit drama college at 17 to concentrate on performing as his long-time hero, the King of Pop.

“At college, they told me I could earn £77 a night in the West End,” he reveals. “So, I quit the course and said ‘I can earn more than that as a Michael Jackson impersonator’.”

Ben Bowman performs as his hero, Michael Jackson

Ben wasn’t wrong. He started by booking his own venues but was soon touring the world and performing as his idol at venues such as the London Palladium.

“When I started, I thought it was just something fun that I could do on the side of working,” says the 33-year-old from Kent. “I never imagined I would be a full-time Michael Jackson impersonator – it’s not like it’s something that comes up at the job centre!”

But Ben seems born to do the job. “Me and my brother grew up with my mother’s vinyl collection and Michael Jackson was part of that,” he said. “We especially caught on to him, and even started dressing up as him for fancy dress parties. I became one of those kids who learned all the dances from the videos.

He has now been performing for 14 years and the show, Michael Starring Ben, is a celebration of Michael Jackson’s work. He says he’s proud to keep the musical legacy alive 10 years on from Jackson’s death in June 2009, shortly before he was due to open a 50-night residency with his This Is It show at London’s O2 Arena.

“I love Michael Jackson’s music as much now as when I was five. I listen to his music every week still, away from performing. I can’t imagine my life any other way.”

Michael Starring Ben will be at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking on Thursday, 12 September.

For the full story get the 5 September edition of the News & Mail

THE punk rock ethic that “anyone can do it” can rarely have had more resonance than for London four-piece Menace.

The band had spent most of 1976 on a gruelling tour of military bases in Germany, playing rock ’n’ roll and R&B covers to airmen and soldiers – and just about making ends meet.

The reformed Menace will appear at the Undercover Festival at Woking’s Fiery Bird

When the band returned to England, they discovered that punk was emerging as a major musical force… and an old school colleague was the major star.

“The Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten went to our school in London, St William of York, and we couldn’t get over it,” says Menace drummer Noel Martin, who is still with the band.

“He wasn’t ‘one of the lads’ at school, he was one of the ones that wasn’t a footballer or one of the tough kids, he was just ‘this kid’ and suddenly he was a rock star.

“We decided to get in on it. We wrote some songs like Screwed Up and Insane Society and then our second or third gig was at the Roxy.”

Menace became regulars at the legendary punk club in Covent Garden, playing with the likes of The Lurkers, Penetration, The Killjoys (with future Dexy’s Midnight Runners frontman Kevin Rowland on vocals), The Rezillos and Sham 69.

“Miles Copeland came to see us and signed us to Illegal Records straight away,” recalls Noel. “Because we could play reasonably well, we stood out I suppose.”

The initial result was the 1977 Screwed Up/Insane Society single, which is now a valuable commodity.

Other singles like GLC and Last Year’s Youth followed as Menace gained a big punk/skinhead following around London.

“We had a great time,” says the drummer. “Punk meant freedom for us. Before, you couldn’t get a gig for love nor money in London, you had to go cap in hand to some agent. It was hard work.

“When punk came along there was loads of shows, everybody could play because suddenly there were so many kids into it.

Menace in their early days

“We got quite a following. It was real – small but real –  people were singing our songs and we were playing three or four times a week in London.”

However, things petered out around the end of 1979 when frontman Morgan Webster left. The rest of the band became a backing band for Vermillion, as The Aces, for a while. Noel says: “Then, from 1981 I didn’t play for years. I started a wedding business, so I was busy every weekend.”

But in 1999 Noel and former bandmate Charlie joined a band called The Collection with John Lacey and played a few gigs. One night they decided to play the Menace classic GLC and Noel says: “The place went nuts!

“Afterwards, someone said ‘That’s the best Menace cover I’ve heard’ and I was like ‘Eh? I was in Menace!’ I started getting calls saying ‘Are you reforming?’, so we decided to do more of the old songs and eventually decided we might as well be Menace.

“It’s more enjoyable, but in a different way. Back then, we were kids and everything was completely insane. We didn’t have a care in the world. But now everyone knows our tunes, everyone knows us and we’re enjoying it to the max.

“We only had 11 songs back in 1977, so we’d often play them more than once! We lasted for three years with 11 songs.

“Now we have a much bigger set. We still play GLC, Screwed Up, Last Year’s Youth, I Need Nothing and we have new songs that sound very similar.”

Menace will play alongside Spear of Destiny, Towers of London, Rubella Ballet, Zounds, Wonk Unit and many others at the Undercover Festival at the Fiery Bird, Woking, on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 September.