As Rob Brydon prepares to take aspects of his darkly funny Marion and Geoff onto stage, we get a glimpse of how he spins toe-curling social awkwardness into comedy gold. Words: Mark Fisher
t's towards the end of my interview with Rob Brydon and we‘ve started to talk
about Wales. Scotland and iingland. the pull of London and the north-south
divide. He‘s from Talbot and Cardiff. which he says always seemed quite Anglicised and not really that far away from the big metropolis ~ not like North Wales. 1 chip in that for me growing tip in the northwest of lingland. I'd always been a bit anti-l.ondon. which is one reason for liking Scotland. though it‘s nothing pathological . . .
And suddenly I‘m talking to Keith Barret. the luckless cabbie-cum-chauffeur of .Wurimt and Geoff. who sees the good in everything. ‘lt's not pathological. it's just an inherent racism.‘ he says in the sing-song fashion of the valleys. ‘l'm happy with that. It‘s just a very evil racism that runs through my veins and I‘ve come to terms with it now. I will kill again.’
This is what it’s like talking to Brydon. Sometimes he deliberately morphs into his cuckolded alter ego. but the line between the two of them is so fine that sometimes he doesn‘t know even he's doing it. It's in the way he stretches his mouth into an up-and-down grin ~ half puzzled. half content 7— and in the way his eyes dart quickly from side to side in moments of excitement. After he‘s polished off a plate of hangers and mash as we sit upstairs in his manager's London mews l'lat. he even burps just like poor Keith when he had to see the doctor for trapped wind.
Yes. he‘s very fond of Keith. he admits. ‘When we did the last series I was quite glad to finish. because I ‘HE almost stay in character all the time.” says Brydon.
shorter. trimmer and more good looking than you
expect. ‘As someone once said. he operates at a low. A
but constant. level of fear. That's not a good way to be
and people around me notice it. I think more like him
and you‘re more likely to cajole me into something:
“All right then. if that‘s what you want.'"
When Brydon isn‘t mutating into Keith. he’s FEAR- slipping into spot-on imitations: he gives me Ronnie Corbett. Peter (ilaze. Dame iidna iiverage. Stan Laurel. ()Iiver Hardy. Alan Partridge. a couple of , characters from Human Remains (the dark. character comedy series he did with Julia Davis). several creations he's yet to find a home for and the girl who comes up to offer us a biscuit (he takes three Hobnobs and wolfs them down). I’d love to quote him verbatim. but the hilarity of it would be lost.
For the full effect you‘ll have to turn up at the Assembly Rooms where he's bringing his acclaimed stage version of Marion and Geo/'7‘. Where the TV incarnation captured Brydon's every facial tie and vocal nuance with its straight- to-camera video diary" format. the live Keith Barret is in performance mode. here by special invitation to give a talk on ‘Making Divorce Work‘.
After the talk. the ever willing Keith opens tip the floor to questions. paving the way for the kind of improvised rambles at which Brydon excels. Indeed. he improvises every night throughout the show in response to the audience. So what’s the mark of a good night'.’ ‘lt's when the audience reacts as one.‘ he says. ‘What you don’t want is pockets. You hear people who play some comedy clubs and there‘s a hen night on one table and an office party on another and it feels very disparate. What you want is them feeling as one. And when I think of some good stuff off the top of my head and the show building. that would >
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