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Cat Air

Strutting and Fretting

I've been to a fair number of BBC radio recordings over the years, all brilliant, but last night was my first experience of TV since I got the coach to London as a student to see Ben Elton.

I willingly queued in the rain outside the ITV-owned London Studios (next to the National Theatre), for I was going to see an episode of Upstart Crow, the Shakespearean sitcom written by Ben Elton (can't keep away from the man, it seems) and starring David Mitchell as Will.

The queue started moving, I was joined by my companion for the evening in the nick of time, and once our tickets had been validated we popped to the corner shop for sandwiches to eat in the second queue to get in (after a security check which completely missed my Swiss Army knife but was very suspicious of my lip balm).

Phones switched off, we were conducted to the studio, where three sets were waiting: from left to right Shakespeare's London pad, his Stratford home, and Miss Lucy's tavern. We were sitting in the right-hand block of seats, but there were big screens to ensure we could see the action wherever it was, and to show us scenes that had been filmed the previous day.

We were warmed up and taught how to laugh properly by a stand-up comedian named Laura, who told us the reason it was so cold in the studio: if it got too hot, David Mitchell's and Harry Enfield's bald wigs would slip.

She was on hand throughout the evening to entertain us while costume changes and minute adjustments happened. Ben Elton himself also came on and talked about the show, Shakespeare, and his inability to operate Netflix.

The cameras started rolling, and we saw just how difficult and delicate an operation it is to film a TV show. There were several takes for each scene, plus a few retakes of individual lines, and the process of recording half an hour's worth of action took over two hours.

It was fun and fascinating to see the intrusion into Elizabethan England of makeup and props people in modern dress, and the cast break character when they fluffed a line (Liza Tarbuck in particular was having a bad night of it).

Harry Enfield, who plays Shakespeare's disreputable dad, was as constantly smiley and lovely as I had always hoped, using one bit of downtime to look into the camera and say "Hello everybody peeps! Or, in David's case, hello everybody Peep Show!"

I will say nothing about the episode (the series 3 finale) except that it was, by Elton's own admission, 'obviously written by someone who hasn't been invited to the BAFTAs since 1989'.


Excellent glimpse behind the scenes! I'm glad you decided not to stab anyone, too... :-)
"That was a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar! You shot five actors! Good ones!"
This comment with the icon is perfection! :D
Ha, thanks! I made myself a few Naked Gun icons years back, as it's my all-time favourite film.
Good choice! :D
To think how much work goes into a production of any kind!
Yes! Makes you want to be a part of it.
In a way... but performing in front of an audience isn't my idea of fun. XD
It's the kind of thing I get freaked out about then enjoy immensely! Haven't done it for many years though.
I did a couple musicals in grade school.... not that I had a choice since everyone had to. XD
Ooh, which ones? I love a musical.
Ones that can't be found on Google apparently. XD
Aww :(
Series one and two are now on Netflix for your further viewing pleasure.
Fantastic! I've only seen a couple (it's pretty easy to pick up what's going on).
Once upon a time, a few friends and myself were ferried into the Bristol BBC studios to act as participants in the filming of some computer show, where we were all in a line, sat down playing various games, whilst the presenter walked behind us, delivering a line, concluding with an “ad lib” of “oh, watch out for that caterpillar!”.

It was quite remarkable just how many takes that apparently took. ^_^; Toward the end, it was as much as I could do to not crack up when that caterpillar line was delivered, especially given it had nothing to do with any of the games we were playing. ^_^

(Tragically, I can’t even recall what the show’s name was. All you could see of me, mercifully, was the back of my head anyway =:)

Which leads me to wonder whether you’ve ever been on camera, wittingly or otherwise. ^_^
Not AFAIK, though I was on the radio as a teen (I imagine any recordings have been mercifully lost).

You actually got to be part of the show, though! Was there money in it, or just glory?