Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cartoons and poetry meet on stage

PCOer Clive Goddard on a unique cartooning event

It’s not every day you hear of a comedy double-act show featuring a poet and a cartoonist. I recently got a ticket for such an event at the Cornerstone Theatre, Didcot.

The cartoonist in question was Tony Husband, whose work I’ve admired for years, and the poet was TV and radio’s Ian McMillan, ("the Shirley Bassey of performance poetry") best known for appearances on the likes of Have I Got News For You.

The pair have been touring their show around large chunks of the country for several years now. It was billed as "A Cartoon History of Here" which intrigued me as I imagined these two Lancashire blokes would know very little about Didcot, an Oxfordshire dormitory town with a railway station, a power station and not much else. As it turned out, they did know very little about Didcot – that’s where the audience came in.

Right from the off Ian McMillan was very funny. He did an excellent job of making everyone feel very relaxed, which was just as well considering the audience participation which was to follow. We had to wait a while for Tony’s contribution. For the first half hour or so he sat anonymously behind a desk at the back, like the Pet Shop Boys' keyboard player.

The idea, it emerged, was for Ian to elicit ideas (preferably silly ones) about the town from the audience, which were turned into an improvised communal poem, acted out by lucky volunteers and illustrated by Tony’s cartoons.

Tony drew on sheets of acetate directly onto an overhead projector so we got to see how fast he drew - and thought (both of which were pretty damn fast). The style was relaxed, confident and instantly recognisable, which is what you’d expect of someone who has been Cartoonist of the Year several times.

At the end of the evening Tony gave away his drawings to an appreciative group of clamouring young fans, which meant I didn’t get one.

All in all, a great idea and great fun. As was the remainder of the evening in the pub where we fearlessly grilled the pair on their intimate lives and learned nothing. Well, nothing printable.

Thanks, Clive. Bloghorn says click G for Goddard.

The PCO: British cartoon talent