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A CurtainUp London Review
To give an example of one of these comic rifs we have Bill's Bouncy Castle saga. Charged with sourcing entertainment for his four year old son, Dax's birthday party he decided to enquire about hiring the large inflatables that small children jump on and we call Bouncy Castles. He found that many proprietors of bouncy castles seemed to have gone out of business but he was directed to a publication called Bouncy Castle News which Bill thought would be a tedious read. Instead it proved fascinating, full of stories of bouncy castle owners with colourful criminal lives, charged with fraud and murder. He eventually got through on the telephone to one business where the owner answered, " Yeah! What!" the bloke probably thought Bill was a reporter from Bouncy Castle News! Bill said he'd like to hire a castle, "I've got a unisex castle" said the bloke which set Bill a thinking about gender specific bouncy castles and from there wondered whether there were faith specific castles — surely a castle is associated with Christianity — so Bill asked if there were a bouncy Mosque - after all, he mused, the children take their shoes off for both!
The show is peppered from situations in Bailey's life. He had a doorbell which played the first five notes of the Star Wars theme but attracted small armies of Ewoks in his garden who rang it and ran away giggling and so he changed it. Bill Bailey is a talented musician having worked, he claims as a crematorium organist and as a member of a jazz band, and he plays for us the notes of his doorbell on a keyboard which can imitate all instruments. George W Bush doesn't get off lightly as Bill intersperses real sound clip recordings of Bushisms, "Blink in the face of terror" and the fascinating "wetlands" with his input. His ability to juxtapose for a ridiculous result is there when he plays a Country and Western song on the Iranian Oud! He admires the speed of the Islamic effigy makers industry as effigies are prepared for burning in answer to perceived anti-Islamic atrocity.
Bailey can act as well with interesting expressive gestures from those round penetrating eyes - and of course his timing is as impeccable as his grooming is bizarrely individual with his trademark long wispy hair. There was nothing Bill Bailey said that didn't amuse and it's such a tonic to laugh out loud. In one scene Bill reproduces and argues with animated, projected versions of himself, these increasing in number until there are six Baileys each with a different persona, the childish, the one who doesn't want to offend anyone, the intellectual, the conspiracy theorist and so on. The lighting is inventive, a scaled down version of the Wembley Stadium show but the Gielgud Theatre is more intimate as a venue than Wembley. A film shows Bill in the park with zany props like a bucket on his head as he acts out a Magritte - the film is a surreal commentary on life in the city. I loved his show - the material isn't new, some of it we saw on television for Prince Charles' Sixtieth Birthday Party and it's out on DVD - but it doesn't matter - Bailey's witty ingenuity bears repetition and more. Tinselworm is a real treat! Please send me another ticket!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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